British Gas lambasted for using premium-rate helpline number

Beleaguered utility provider British Gas is under fire for poor customer service after being fined for keeping consumers on hold for an “unreasonable amount of time” on a premium-rate number.

Online comparison service uSwitch lambasted the Centrica-owned utility for what it describes as a “kick in the guts” for Click Energy consumers enquiring about an increase in their tariffs.

ICSTIS, the premium rate services regulator, fined British Gas £5,000 for keeping Click Energy customers on hold after investigations revealed lengthy waits on the phone with no warning of the cost.

USwitch.com product strategy manager Tim Wolfenden says/ “It is unacceptable for customers to pay 75p a minute when they have a query with their tariff. This is compounded by the fact these customers saw energy prices rise 12.5% for gas and 9.5% for electricity after British Gas lifted the price freeze enforced last September.”

ICSTIS insisted British Gas refund all consumers who were kept on hold and criticised Cable & Wireless, provider of the premium-rate service, for failing to make British Gas aware of its responsibilities around the code of practice on premium rate telephone services. British Gas call centre staff were found to be giving incorrect information on the cost of the calls when queried by consumers, variously saying they were 3p or 60p a minute.

A spokeswoman for British Gas says: “We acknowledged our mistake and immediately changed the contact number. Our Click Energy customers continue to enjoy some of the most competitive rates available and will soon, like other British Gas customers, be enjoying a price cut.”

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