British Gas sorry for failure of winter prepayment recharge switch

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British Gas is paying £ 1.73million after failing to tell thousands of customers they need to buy prepaid meter refills at different stores.

The energy giant changed charging provider from Paypoint to Payzone on January 1, but 270,000 customers were not informed.

Not all customers, some of whom are vulnerable, have been notified of a change in the minimum top-up from £ 1 to £ 5.

British Gas has apologized, admitting that the transition was not “smooth”.

‘Wasted trips’

Regulator Ofgem said the lack of information may have led customers to make unnecessary trips to try and recharge at stores that no longer offered the service.

Many customers were made aware of the supplier changes and new minimum payments in December, which Ofgem said was too late if they wanted to switch to a new prepaid meter supplier.

Others were not notified until the end of January – weeks after the change.

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Ofgem said some of its letters to clients did not include a phone number, simply providing internet links, which could disadvantage people with limited understanding or no internet access.

The existing phone line was not available on January 1, the first day of the new arrangements.

“When such a fundamental change is made, for example where meters can be recharged, energy providers need to communicate with their customers on time,” said Philippa Pickford, Retail Director of Ofgem .

British Gas said “the transition was not as smooth as it should have been” and said it had already paid out £ 1.48million to those affected.

“We know that some prepaid customers are vulnerable and we take our responsibilities to them very seriously,” said the energy supplier.

“We made sure whoever contacted us had heating and hot water – this included sending an engineer to manually add credit to the meter if the customer couldn’t get to the most operational charging point. close. ”

Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, said: “It is unacceptable that poor communications put people at risk of being cut off from their energy supply in the middle of winter.

“Households with prepaid meters are very likely to have lower incomes, have children or include people with health problems. It is therefore essential that suppliers pay close attention and ensure that changes like this do not put people at risk. “

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