Will British Gas please let me contribute to their profits? – Brian Wilson

I don’t normally share consumer woes which are no worse than anyone else’s. However, news of British Gas quadrupling its profits encourages me to make an exception.

Brian Wilson is struggling to find a way to pay his gas bill, but not through lack of funds (Picture: Euan Cherry/PA)
Brian Wilson is struggling to find a way to pay his gas bill, but not through lack of funds (Picture: Euan Cherry/PA)

In January, my electricity supplier went bust. As the hopeless, market-obsessed regulator, Ofgem, admitted this week their “previous financial resilience regime was not robust enough”. A classic under-statement.

Ofgem handed me over to British Gas. That was six months ago. Not only have they not asked for money, they have made it impossible for me to take the basic safeguard of giving them some.

To create a direct debit, they need a meter reading. When I try that, the screen tells me: “The customer account you entered doesn’t need any meter readings right now.” Kafka may have designed the system.

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I once managed to get through to a human voice which told me I didn’t owe them anything, which I know cannot be true. Their awful online “chat” gave me the same assurance. I took a picture for when the bailiffs arrive.

The result is that I have paid nothing for seven months and must have run up a substantial bill which I will eventually pay. How many, I wonder, will be hit by bills for which they have made inadequate provision through no fault of their own? Will Ofgem lift a finger to protect them?

The morals of the story? The utilities should be windfall-taxed up to their oxters and the whole system, based on the fiction of a competitive market, urgently re-visited.​

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