On The Case
Maria and Mark Hamilton thought redeveloping a property would give them the perfect home. They bought a house in Swansea in May 2009 and knew it would be a long term project.
Maria said, “We knew it was going to take a while to renovate the house but it was the right decision.”
Mark works abroad so it was difficult for mum-of-two Maria to organise building work.
But as no-one was living in the house, she did expect that the electricity bills with British Gas to be low - approxiametly £40 a month.
She said,” Nobody living in the house, for us it was a good deal.”
But after having a new electricity meter fitted Maria was surprised to find the bills doubled.
“Suddenly we started paying £86 per month. We were concerned because no one was living in the house. There was no way we could be using all that electricity,” she said.
The family complained to British Gas, who tested the meter. A fault was eventually found and a replacement meter was installed.
Maria thought that was the end of the problem but instead of going down, the bills just kept going up and they were suddenly being charged more than £380 a month.
Maria complained to British Gas, but couldn’t get to the bottom of the problem. By now the Hamilton's had paid more than £3,000 in electricity charges, in just over a year.
“It's incredibly frustrating for us. We're not getting any help from anyone at all. You can call as much as you want but no help at all,” said Maria.
Lucy got on the case for Mark and Maria and discovered that if a consumer struggles to get an answer from an energy company, they can take their complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
The Ombusman will look at issues and complaints regarding energy companies, but only if they've already had eight weeks to sort it out.
Last year more than two thirds of cases ended with customers getting refunds.
British Gas said that in Maria's case they've been sending estimated bills that were unfortunately based on readings from a faulty meter that they changed.
They have now apologised for taking so long to sort out the Hamilton's billing issue and say they will refund what the family are owed since the faulty meter was installed in September 2009.
Mark and Maria Hamilton have now been sent a cheque for £2,500 and have a credit of £400 on their electricity account.