British Gas makes payments totalling £1.73 million for handling of changes to prepayment meter top-up arrangements
British Gas failed to notify around 270,000 prepayment customers about a change of top-up provider, from Paypoint to Payzone, which went live on 1 January 2020.
This meant that some customers, many of whom are in a vulnerable situation, may have suffered detriment through wasted journeys to try and top-up at shops which no longer offered the service, or in some cases may have gone off supply. British Gas ultimately sent communications to these customers in late January 2020.
British Gas informed most of its customers of the change in top-up provider in December 2019. The communication contained details not only of the change of top-up provider but also of the change in minimum top-up from £1 to £5.
This left insufficient time for customers to switch supplier if they found the new arrangements to be problematic.
The notification did not include telephone contact details, but instead contained links to the internet. Those customers unfamiliar with, or without access to, the internet may have struggled to contact British Gas in the event that they were struggling to top-up.
Additionally, British Gas chose not to operate its general enquiries line on 1 January 2020 – the go-live date.
When British Gas decided to switch to Payzone, it failed to make sure that communication with its customers was adequate both in terms of coverage and content.
Ofgem engaged with British Gas in early January 2020 when it became aware of problems with the switchover of top-up provider.
Ofgem asked for information relating to the case and as part of that request, British Gas told us that it proposed to make compensation payments of £1.48 million to impacted customers.
British Gas has also agreed to pay £250,000 to Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund administered by the Energy Savings Trust, which supports consumers in vulnerable situations and the development of innovative products or services not currently available to energy consumers.
Due to the steps British Gas has taken, Ofgem has decided not to take formal enforcement action.
Philippa Pickford, Director of Retail at Ofgem said:
“When such a fundamental change is being made, such as where meters can be topped up, energy suppliers need to communicate with their customers in plenty of time. British Gas should have informed all of their prepayment customers, many whom are in vulnerable situations, of the change to how to top-up their meters during the winter period.
“Some customers were unaware of the change before it happened and may have struggled to contact British Gas as they opted not to open their general enquiries line on the go live date. Others were given insufficient time to make alternative arrangements if they were unhappy with the change of top-up provider.
“Ofgem will continue to closely monitor the market to ensure that all customers are protected and treated fairly by their supplier.”
Notes to editors
- Ofgem closes compliance case with British Gas, regarding its handling of changes to prepayment meter customer top-up arrangements.
- For more information about Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund, see: Ofgem appoints Energy Saving Trust to distribute payments from rule-breaking energy companies to charities.
For media, contact:
Michelle Amos: 020 7901 1881
Media out of hours mobile: 0792 882 9894 (media calls only)
General enquiries (non-media)
If you are an energy customer looking for help and advice, including complaints about energy firms, please see our Household gas and electricity guide. Citizens Advice also provide a free, impartial helpline service across a range of issues on 0808 223 1133.
If you have an enquiry or complaint relating to Ofgem’s policies or functions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7901 7295.
For all other non-media related enquiries, please visit our Contact us page.
Ofgem is Britain’s independent energy regulator. Our role is to protect consumers now and in the future by working to deliver a greener, fairer energy system. We do this by:
- Working with Government, industry and consumer groups to deliver a net zero economy at the lowest cost to consumers.
- Stamping out sharp and bad practice, ensuring fair treatment for all consumers, especially the vulnerable.
- Enabling competition and innovation, which drives down prices and results in new products and services for consumers.
Latest News from
Market Compliance Review into customers struggling with bills28/09/2022 12:15:00
Ofgem requires suppliers to improve help for customers in payment difficulties, following review.
Market Compliance Review into customers struggling with bills27/09/2022 16:15:00
Ofgem requires suppliers to improve help for customers in payment difficulties, following review
Ofgem confirms changes to the price cap methodology and frequency ahead of new rate to be announced later this month05/08/2022 15:15:15
Ofgem yesterday (Thursday 4 August 2022) confirmed that the energy price cap will be updated quarterly, rather than every six months, as it warned that customers face a very challenging winter ahead.
Ofgem orders TruEnergy Ltd to improve its process for setting direct debits28/07/2022 12:15:00
Today (Thursday 28 July 2022), Ofgem has issued energy supplier TruEnergy Ltd with a Provisional Order compelling it to take action to ensure that its direct debit policy and processes are fit for purpose, and to ensure that customer direct debits are set at the right level.
Ofgem statement on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee's report on energy pricing and the future of the energy market26/07/2022 13:05:00
An Ofgem spokesperson Responds to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee's report
Ofgem requires improvements from energy suppliers on customer direct debits15/07/2022 13:15:00
Energy regulator Ofgem recently (13 July 2022) told a number of energy suppliers to take immediate and urgent action, after a review found a range of weaknesses or failings in the way they charge customers direct debits.
Ofgem requires improvements from energy suppliers on customer direct debits13/07/2022 13:30:00
Today (Wednesday 13 July 2022), energy regulator Ofgem has told a number of energy suppliers to take immediate and urgent action, after a review found a range of weaknesses or failings in the way they charge customers direct debits.
Ofgem proposes reforms to power the UK forward to a net zero, home-grown energy system11/07/2022 15:20:00
Ofgem has put forward a range of potential reforms to reduce Britain’s reliance on expensive gas imports and accelerate the transition towards cleaner, more secure and affordable supplies of home-grown energy.
Ofgem reveals landmark five-year programme to deliver reliable, sustainable energy at the lowest cost to consumers29/06/2022 15:15:00
Ofgem has today set out a landmark five-year vision to transform local energy grids to support the transition to a cleaner, affordable, home-grown low-carbon energy system, as part of its draft plans for the next electricity distribution price control (known as RIIO-ED2).