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Why Did British Gas Threaten, and Harassed A Business For Payment  Of A Non-Existent Gas Supply?


Moving a business to a new location can be a stressful scenario at the best of times.  However Datalite UK Ltd was astonished to discover how much time and frustration is spent on dealing with organisations such as British Gas.  An extraordinary saga experienced revealed British Gas bullying tactics, ridiculous invoices loaded with charges to almost a 1000, and incredible mindless bureaucracy. All this despite not being a customer of British Gas, and the premises not having any gas appliances, gas supply, or even a gas meter! 

Moving a business to a new location can be an extremely stressful time; a process that can be hindered by the sheer audacity, mindlessness, and bureaucracy of such UK organisations as  British Telecon,  TV Licensing, HM Revenue and Customs, Civil Enforcement Officers, British Gas, and a number of Electricity Supply companies.  Datalite UK Ltd’s experiences with these provide a wealth of information, enough for a good article each for future posting.  This article focuses on a staggering experience of dealings from British Gas.

Datalite recently opened a new shop.  Staff moved in to be greeted with a mass of mail, the majority of which was addressed to ‘The Occupier’ and mainly from British Gas and TV Licensing.  Computer generated, but an obvious waste of time, money, and resources.

The most recent British Gas mailing was headed ‘LEGAL NOTICE’ British Gas Will Be Obtaining A Warrant To Enter Your Premises.  Claiming an outstanding debt of 43.71 (several years prior to Datalite’s arrival) and threatening to charge up to 361 for the privilege of serving the warrant!

Datalite UK Ltd was surprised at the derogatory tone of their letters, and hence British Gas was telephoned to report the recent move -  and the best bit: to report that gas appliances, gas connection, or even a gas meter were conspicuous by their total absence! The aim was to put an end to the vicious correspondence.  Seems simple enough, but the sheer incredulous bureaucracy of British Gas could not be under estimated. 

Telephoning a large company or organisation in the United Kingdom is no longer the simple matter it used to be.   The inevitable voicemail system appears designed to waste as much of customer’s time as possible whilst relaying the recording:   ‘Your custom is important to us, all our operators are busy dealing with other customers’.  This should really being saying ‘Our Company does not give a dam about you, we will keep you hanging on to waste your valuable time and to earn us extra revenue’.  After half an hour wasted, moving in details were supplied, and British Gas were informed their bills pre-date our time at the premises, and of course the fact that the premises had no gas, gas appliances, or even a meter!  That should have been the end of the matter.

In modern day UK mindless bureaucracy and jobsworth rules!  So of course a week later Datalite’s shop premises were greeted with an even stronger letter.  This was a ‘NOTICE OF DISCONNECTION’ saying that a British Gas Agent Will Be Visiting Your Property’,  charged 50 for the cost of the visit, 41 for legal warrant to enter the ‘home’, and a disconnection of the (non-existent) Gas Supply of 270. Another telephone call was required.

It was evident the awful experience with British Gas Voicemail was not a one off, after a half hour of  ‘your custom is important all our advisors are busy…’ mantra  a human being finally answered.  A different person with no record kept of the previous conversation of course. The whole saga needed to be relayed again. 

The messages emanating from British Gas call centre staff were conflicting.  According to one side of their system there was no record of a gas outlet of any description at the premises, the other side of the system records an unaccounted gas supply and bill pre-dating the recent building of the premises!  This was a nonsensical position, but British Gas staff’s line was that the onus was on Datalite (not even their customer at any point), to rectify the failings in their bureaucratic system.

After several more calls John Henry the Managing Director of Datalite personally spoke to a representative of British Gas; the gas rep acknowledged that the premises did not have a gas supply, but the previous building which was knocked down did!  Very simply British Gas had not appropriately updated their records to show this.   For most companies this act of omission would be promptly corrected, but not British Gas.  The representative said we had to make an emergency call to British Gas to say we smelt gas – and an engineer would call out and make a report that their was no gas supply, meter, or appliances.  Datalite were not prepared to act out this lie, nor the alternative of reporting that the (non-existent) meter had been stolen!

The representative promised to telephone back with a view to a solution, but was advised that the only way was to ring up on an emergency call out basis on day required, and informed that it was not possible for British Gas to book an appointment (to rectify their mistake!). The promised call back to Datalite did not happen – yet another common feature of call centres, once a customer is off the phone, call backs and other such promises tend to disintegrate – leaving the customer to start again.

A few days later Datalite contacted British Gas to arrange an urgent callout, and spoke to a lady called Fran.  She said it would not be possible, as according to her records we didn’t have gas or a gas meter!  Exasperated we ran the above saga through to an incredulous Fran.  She immediately agreed this was nonsense, promised an immediate manual correction, and apologised for all the hassle staff of Datalite had been subjected to.  For the first time in this saga communication was to an intelligent human being who immediately resolved the ridiculous problem.  True to her word Datalite has not had received any further chasing action from British Gas.  If only more Company staff were like Fran, it would save an immense amount of frustration and bad feeling!

An utterly incredible example of mindless bureaucracy from the British Gas  company was experienced by Datalite UK Ltd, being threatened, hounded, and harassed for payment of a bill.  All this despite not being a customer, and a non-existent gas supply!
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About The Author
John D Henry BA BSc, Managing Director of  DATALITE UK LTD
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