British Gas – hiking up direct debits

There’s been a lot of media interest in the problem of British Gas’s direct debit hikes.

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Almost all the people who responded to my email survey were facing increases far above both the 35% reported in the press and the 42% increase for direct debit customers reported by the Telegraph. The average figure was 81%.

The dramatic increase in interest income from British Gas parent, Centrica plc, suggests this is a deliberate strategy – building up cash balances to make money on interest. Since 2006, the interest income declared in their accounts has gone through the roof – doubling from £40 million in 2006 to £83 million in 2007. Interest in their interim accounts for first six months of 2008 (£43 million) is 54% higher than the £28 million interest income reported for the first six months of 2007.

I’d be amazed if it was just a Winchester problem and am interested in finding out who else has the same problem. Please feel free to email me with details at martin@martintod.org.uk or use the form below.

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2 Responses to British Gas – hiking up direct debits

  1. David Shipley says:

    Thank you for taking up this issue. As you can see from the size of my bill, I am not a particularly deserving case, but my experience suggests that as you suspect this is deliberate practice. The same thing happened last year, they climbed down and then after a few months reinstated the increase. I have been running credit balances (ie interest free loans) to BG of between £250 and £1000 for the last three years. I took my complaint to a very high level last year and thought that they would be careful not to repeat the behaviour; however it is clearly standard practice, even though their stock response is to call it a computer glitch “the computer does not recognise credit balances!!”
    Energywatch is no use, as so far as they are concerned if management deal with an issue by adjusting the overestimate, then it is not their problem. Since this appears to be a) endemic and b) deliberate then a fine or even the enforced removal of one or more board members seems to be the appropriate sanction. Or perhaps they could be forced to pay interest on credit balances. But when you see the nonsense on Energywatch’s website you can tell why utilities are so weakly regulated in the UK.

  2. Pingback: Martin Tod » Blog Archive » Gas companies: BBC’s Fileon4 reports

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