British Gas feels the heat from Ofgem

British Gas has come under fire from both energy regulator Ofgem and the advertising watchdog with a huge fine and ad campaign banned.

BritishGas

Ofgem is fining the utilities supplier a massive £2.5m for the way it has mishandled customer complaints.

This follows a £1m slapped on British Gas by Ofgem earlier this month for misreporting to the government the amount of electricity it supplies.

Ofgem says: “The fine is a warning from Ofgem that all energy companies must take complaint handling seriously and treat their customers fairly.”

The energy regulator has been flexing its muscles of late and its latest reprimand has a backdrop of a marketplace review of energy company pricing that began last year.

Ofgem’s investigation found that British Gas had failed to re-open complaints when the customer reported and unsatisfactory resolution; failed to provide customers with key details about the service provided by the Energy Ombudsman and failed to put in place adequate processes and practices for dealing with complaints from small businesses.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem senior partner for sustainable development, says: “Today’s finding highlights basic failures in British Gas’ customer service, particularly in dealing with some of its small business customers, and shows Ofgem’s commitment to use its powers to ensure suppliers treat customers fairly and transparently.”

Concerns over doorstep selling and “Del Boy” sales tactics by utility companies were raised by an MPs committee earlier this week.

Scottish & Southern Energy suspended all doorstep selling earlier this month.

British Gas has also been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for a misleading campaign for its HomeCare same-day repair service. Among the complainants was rival supplier E.On Energy.

The campaign says that the supplier would come out the same day for repairers if called before 1pm. The ads did state there was limited peak demand, weekend and public holiday service.

British Gas says that the campaign began was pulled by the end of November due to the severe winter weather that set in and the company’s fear its service level would drop.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that customers already signed up “would still expect the same day service to be provided” despite the weather.

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