Anger from British Gas customers as company follows price hikes with pressure to pay more on boiler maintenance
British Gas has been criticised for threatening to make its boiler insurance customers’ policies invalid if they don’t pay upwards of £695 for a Powerflush.
People who have signed up to the British Gas HomeCare scheme, which costs £300 per year, receive regular checks to their boiler from British Gas engineers. These engineers are paid commission for every Powerflush that they sell to a customer.
Refusal to pay out
What Britain’s 4.6 million HomeCare customers may be unaware of is that if a fault develops in their boiler after a Powerflush has been recommended and refused then their insurance terms absolve British Gas of any responsibility to pay out.
Paul Wrightson, 63, told the Daily Mail that this clause persuaded him to pay £800 for an unwanted Powerflush. He said, “Service engineers are acting like cowboy salesmen by frightening people into spending £800 on work that is often not required, with the threat the service contract will no longer cover repairs if the flush is not carried out.”
British Gas responded by saying “our engineers follow a strict diagnostic routine to identify the root cause of a boiler or central heating fault. Our advice is led by what’s right for each individual customer, not by any particular product or service.”
They continued by assuring their customers that they’d “only recommend the best solutions for their needs.”
The fresh criticism of British Gas follows hot on the heels of the Prime Minister urging customers to leave the company after it imposed 9.2% price hikes. For electricity customers prices will rise by a wince-inducing 10.4% on average with some Scottish customers receiving a 11.2% increase. Gas customers will receive an average increase of 8.4%.
During an interview with BBC Radio Sussex David Cameron was asked what the government could do to resolve the issues behind the price increases. He replied, “What we can do, which is what we are doing, is to try to get new suppliers into the market.
“We are pushing competition and I would urge customers of British Gas who are unhappy to change their supplier.”
British Gas spokesman Bert Pijls justified the price hikes by saying that they had been faced with cost increases of 7% in wholesale energy prices, 7% in pipes and wires and 38% for government imposed environmental and social programmes.
Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, said, “British Gas was the only company not to meet its targets under the previous obligation to make its customers’ homes more energy efficient. That left more homes cold and their customers paying over the odds.”
Further fuel was added to customers’ displeasure by the fact that British Gas have increased the salaries of their top management by vastly more than inflation. Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, saw his pay increase from £1.73 million in 2008 to £2.35 million this year. The 36% increase is similar to the increase in British Gas customers’ bills over the same period.
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