British Gas feels the burn

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando

The bad news just keeps on coming for Britain’s energy companies. Just days after MPs launched an attack on the industry’s ‘Del Boy’ door-to-door sales tactics, British Gas has been hit with a record-breaking £2.5 million fine for its poor handling of customer complaints and refusal to cooperate with the energy ombudsman by industry watchdog Ofgem.

For a company belonging to the colossal Centrica group, which recorded multi-billion pound profits last year, a few million quid is likely to be just a trifling matter. But after the company announced whopping price rises a few weeks ago, customers could be forgiven for indulging in a little schadenfreude.

"Today's finding highlights basic failures in British Gas' customer service, particularly in dealing with some of its small business customers,” blasted Ofgem spokesperson Sarah Harrison."We warned the industry in March that we would be backing up our plans to reform the retail market with a tough approach to enforcement."

British Gas said that its breaches were minor when taking into account its 16 million-strong customer base, and pointed to the praise heaped on the company for its customer service.

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: 'Energy customers are losing out on many fronts and it is good to see the regulator fighting their corner. This fine must be part of a significant overhaul of the energy market. Most of the big six energy companies are under investigation for one form of poor practice and consumer organisations need to be vigilant if people are to get a fair deal.”

“Major questions are still hanging over whether pricing is fair, whether companies mis-sell energy on the doorstep and many others,” she continued. “Ofgem has a big job on its hands, but this is a good sign that it is prepared to step up.”


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