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Are you paying too much for gas?

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Rob Unsworth - editor | 14:36 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

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We're sorry to say that since the making of this film Brian Green has passed away. When Nicky and the Watchdog team met him, at his house they noted that he was a real gentleman. The main reason he'd wanted to talk to us was to make sure that what happened to him wouldn't happen to anyone else. Hopefully, it's some comfort to his family to know that this is very much the case.

For some parts of Britain, it's been the coldest winter for 17 years, with temperatures plummeting to as low as -12 Celsius. That, coupled with record gas and electricity bills, means plenty of people are paying more for their energy than they can afford.

There is information about how to check your meter at the bottom of this page.

Some people's bills have been going up more than most. In one case, by an incredible 548 per cent, but no one could say why.

Into the red
When pensioners Vivienne and Brian Green's monthly direct debit payments to British Gas reached £311, they decided to turn off the boiler, because their bank balance was going into the red for the first time in their lives.

Vivienne told us: "I was worried about my husband being poorly as well, lying in bed in a cold room." (Brian had been suffering from bouts of pneumonia.)

"We thought we were paying for the street. So I rang them and told them I can't afford to pay it. It didn't seem to bother them. They don't realise how much it hurts."

It took ten months for British Gas to come up with an explanation for the problem. The Greens were being charged as if they had an old imperial gas meter, when in fact they'd been changed to a metric one when they were with another supplier several years earlier. Because of this error, British Gas was mistakenly converting the readings from the new meter, meaning the Green's were being charged roughly three times what they should've been paying.

"Totally unrealistic"
Energy expert John Hall was surprised the error hadn't been spotted earlier: "It's incredible that a new meter is installed and the supplier doesn't know about it." Hall said their unusually high energy usage should have rung alarm bells. "That's comparable to an office building of about 6,500 square feet, housing 50 to 60 people, working five days a week, with the heating left on at the weekend, so it's totally unrealistic to expect a domestic building to consume that level of gas."

British Gas issued a refund of £2,768 to the Greens just before Christmas, along with a £200 gesture of goodwill. The energy company said the couple was affected by an industry-wide data problem: "This began with a meter exchange which took place when they were with another supplier. The exchange wasn't recorded on the industry database, making all subsequent bills incorrect for any supplier. While rare, we acknowledge these cases are distressing. We're sorry that we did not rectify the problem sooner."

Watchdog has heard from customers of other energy companies who've had similar problems. Dave and Annette Rushworth's gas bills with Npower became so high, they couldn't afford to run their central heating either, and again, it was because the company hadn't realised they now had a metric meter.

Switching suppliers
Dave and Annette switched to another supplier, Utility Warehouse, hoping for lower bills, but they encountered the same problem. This time the company did spot that something wasn't quite right and wrote to the couple, but it was a casual chat with a delivery man from the Post Office that gave Dave the answer. The postman had heard of the problem and got Dave to check his meter and bills. They soon saw that they'd been charged as if the meter was imperial when it was metric.

Annette is angry that it wasn't sorted out sooner: "It's extremely annoying because we've had this problem for over three years. There was no need for it."

Npower says it is going to recalculate Dave and Annette's bills and send them £50 as a gesture of good will. However, it says that the error lies with their previous supplier.

Utility Warehouse, their current supplier, has offered a full refund for any overpayment that occurred since Dave and Annette switched to them. However, it insists that it wasn't actually at fault because it wasn't given the correct meter details from the gas industry database.

How to check your meter
We've heard of dozens of similar cases involving almost all of the big energy companies, and there could be plenty more, because one million meters are changed from imperial to metric every year.

If yours is one of them, here's how you can check you're being billed correctly:

If your gas meter has the letters fton the front, it's one of the old imperial ones. That means your reading needs to be converted, and the small print of your bill should show this. It'll probably be called a metric conversion factor. But if your meter has the letter M, it's a new metric meter, and your bill shouldn't have a metric conversion factor on it. If it does, you too could be paying too much.

Imperial meter

Metric meter


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  • Comment number 1.

    We moved house in 2007 and paid a final bill in the september when we left.
    3 months later we received a final bill for £700 plus which they demanded straight away. we queried this but were then told that the new people in our old hause had given them a reading but beween times had had the meter replaced so how can they prove what we owed....damned british gas..

  • Comment number 2.

    When gas companies ask for a meter reading - why don't they simply provide a tick box for m3 or ft3?


  • Comment number 3.

    There are usually about 10 cubic feet in a cubic metre so are these people not being overcharged by a factor of 10 not 3? Just a thought!

  • Comment number 4.

    I have my gas supply with Swalec and my meter is imperial and my bills are metric. On the bills it has "correction factor 1.02264 calorific value 39.5" does this mean It is being converted from imperial to metric or am I being over charged. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi, just wondered where on your bill it say's if it's been converted, as my bill has risen substantially in the last year.

  • Comment number 6.

    My gas bill quotes a 'Volume Conversion factor'on it, my meter is a Metric meter. This is nothing to do with a 'Metric Conversion Factor is it?

  • Comment number 7.

    Having previously fell behind in gas payments i had a meter installed.

    Since May 2008, I have spent over £750 on gas topups

    however my recent bill i recieved showed that I had used £53.10 worth of gas

    this is for myself and flatmate, both whom struggle with mental health problems. needless to say we had a cold few weeks, so much so our toothpaste was frozen into the tube.

    The only help i was given for 'priority services' was that i could ask for my bill in braile. I am insulted that npower feel they have covered 'disabled and chronically sick' customers by offering a bill in braile.

    npower argue that they will always leave me with 30% of my topups. This is true, until midnight when they take any remaining credit.

    The debt was repaid in full over 3 weeks ago, but they are still charging me, and won't send an engineer, because these are 'meter charges'.

    I ask how much these meter charges are, and they say they dont know, but the meter will correct itself when i have paid what i owe.

    but because we are not elderly, we are ignored.

  • Comment number 8.

    Your TV report on old Imperial and new Metric Gas Meters.

    You stated that Br. Gas were overcharging some customers by a factor of three times when the Metric/Imperial error went unnoticed.

    We assume the new Metric Meter records gas in cubic metres and the old Imperial Meter records gas in cubic feet.

    There are nine cubic feet in a cubic yard, and a cubic yard is less volume than a cubic metre.

    Isn't it right to assume that customers were being overcharged by a factor of more than nine times rather than the three times you reported?

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Watch Dog

    I am so glad that this issue has been brought up by someone as we are the victom of the same. We got stuck up between two suppliers EDF Energy and British gas and been taken over twice by Both of the copies since August 2007 and everytime ended by both the companies by direct debits.Though it was fought and been taken care of after spening horendous amounts of time by talking to the suppliers however quite recently we are billed BY BRITICH GAS for 295 Pounds for last three months though we are on dual energy and paying 31 Pounds on direct debit for gas everymonth. Its just a three bedroom house and use gas sparely everyday. Now we are using Blanckets in our Front room to get our selves comfy. After watching your programme , i checked I got an old meter with FT written ( Old Meter)

    Just wanted to ask a few things
    A) What is the procedure to claim the money from Britsh Gas or to raise reservations of the bill as most of their customer services Rep only take the meter readings into accoutns and are not equipped to deal anything like these.

    B) Would they change our meter (free of charge) with the new one.

    I shall awiat your answer and Keep up the good work. GOOD PROGRAMME

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 10.

    Can you tell me I have a card meter how would I know if I am paying to much money? my meter is the M3 meter.

    As your details tells me what to look for on bill...I do not receive a bill I am paying via the card.

  • Comment number 11.

    Found the item on British Gas meters very interesting.
    I have a metric meter and was interested to see 'that I might still be overcharged'. Is it possible that this could be enlarged on?

  • Comment number 12.

    Mine has recently been changed to metric. But, my bill has a'volume conversion factor' with numbers in the fine print. Can someone please tell me if this means I am being charged wrongly? Please post a reply, British Gas refused to answer me when i phoned my bills are running into the hundreds and I only keep thermostat on 14 celcius. It is like the north pole here.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have been a meter reader for the last 26 years and all the domestic 5 dial meters are metric meters. As a meter reader when we visit a meter if the meter number or the number of dials are differant then we must do a meter exchange on our hand held computers giving all the meter details and one of the mandatory fields is to ident a metric or imperial meter, so BG or any of the other supplyer companys saying that they dont have the information on meter exchanges is wrong. The gas supply companys have meters read either 3/6 monthly so they should all have the information, if they then ident a poss query with the meter reading then they send a special call out to the reading company to check all the meter details, so this should be sorted in a short space of time.

  • Comment number 14.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    1 cubic meter = 35.314 cubic feet

    I have no idea where the "incredible 548 per cent" number comes from.


  • Comment number 15.

    My Electric meter is Imperial and my gas meter is metric. My bills only mention the conversion to KWh. Do you think this is correct or not?

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi. I work in the energy efficiency dept for one of the big four supplyers. Yes I agree these faults in billing should be picked up before it gets to the situation seen on the show. However as stated it is usually an external company that changes the meters and some time's don't notify the supplyer. If you recive notification of bills going up and it appears out of sorts what they are asking for then speak to the supplyer.

    Double check all details when moving supplyer also. I truely feel that alot of billing problems are down to the meter reads being wrong or estimated. Ofgem regulation states that a meter only has to be read once in 18 months to 2 years. The other times a meter can be estimated. This I feel NEEDS to be changed, as to many peoples bills and payments are based on estimated accounts.

    Can I also please take this opertunity to say that the elderly couple on the show should contact there supplyer. As the supplyer should have some form of social tariff of form of priority service that will offer them help with ther bills and mtr reads etc. No one should be affraid to be warm!

  • Comment number 17.

    my meter has not got ft or m3 on it but has cubic feet wrote on it is this the same

  • Comment number 18.

    I've just checked our gas meter and see that it has m3 on. Our bills show units converted to kilowatt hours. Is this where we are being over charged
    The meter seems to have been changed in 2001

  • Comment number 19.

    Having looked at my bill it states "M" Number Correction Factor is this the conversion charge? Well done watch dog

  • Comment number 20.

    I have been on the case helping Mr & Mrs Green with this problem and wanted to add that British gas knew of the difference in the serial number way back in March 2007 when the Greens explained that they couldn't afford the gas bill. British gas asked them to look at the serial number on the meter and at this point discovered that the serial number on their meter was different to the one on their bill.
    They did nothing about it so to offer the Greens £200 as a gesture or goodwill is an insult. It is their fault and passing the buck and blaming a National Data base is rubbish. Their December bank charges were £229 alone because of the debt British gas created, let alone the previous months bank charges.

    Great report guys made me cry!

  • Comment number 21.

    I have a metric meter,my bill has (volume conversion factor)on it is this ok or am i being over charged?

  • Comment number 22.

    The gas suppliers rely on 3 industry databases, Xoserve, Rainbow and SGN records in the Scotia gas area's. These databses are updated by the meter Asset Managers who fit and remove the meters. OAMI meter installers and The Gas Suppliers. The industry leaves the responsibilities for the accuracy of the records with the gas suppliers.

  • Comment number 23.

    I have very large gas bills also and was very keen to check my meter and recent bill from British Gas. The meter is metric but I can't see where on the detailed bill it will show that they beleive I have a imperial meter and are applying this metric conversion factor.

    Can any body help me. The phone lines are closed tonight and can't wait to find out if they are at fault.

  • Comment number 24.

    My bill also seems to have calorific value then cubic metres in brackets, then an equals sign and a number followed by kWh? I have been threated with debt collectors and already being in finacial difficulties this has been very stressful. I feel great sympathy for the couples on the show.

  • Comment number 25.

    after watching the program on 12/01/09 i checked my meter and noticed mine did have a m on it, however when i have checked my statements they are being converted, i have payment meters. will i still be paying too much. i seem to be putting a awful lot of money on per week.

  • Comment number 26.

    My bill explains who it works out the bill for both metric and imperial but i cant see where it states which one i am being charged for. Its an npower bill...any help? thanks ix

  • Comment number 27.

    y meter isprobably quite old and has neither an M or FT on it but my bill has metric conversion factor on it and the October one seemed normal

  • Comment number 28.

    after watching the program on 12/01/09. i checked my gas meter and found that it does have a 'm' on it, however my statements show that it is in fact being converted. i have payment meters, am i paying too much for my gas on the meter as i do seem to be putting an awful lot of money on it per week?

  • Comment number 29.

    I am no expert on working out from Imperial to Metric but a simple way to check is to go to your meter and look at the serial number then compare this number with the one on your bill. This is how I discovered the Greens problem as the numbers did not tally, British Gas had the serial number for the old imperial meter but it had been changed to metric and the paper work not carried out.

  • Comment number 30.

    My bill is also from Npower and I have a very good feeling that they are going to deny that they are converting my bill even if they are, I'm sure like most of you, you would like to find out if they are or not over charging before you speak to them. If any one can help us please...?

  • Comment number 31.

    my meter isprobably quite old and has neither an M or FT on it but my bill has metric conversion factor on it and the October one seemed normal

  • Comment number 32.

    The program didn't spend enough time to explain what factors may be on Metric bills legitimately. I believe that "Volume Conversion Factor" is OK on a M meter bill from Brit Gas, but "Metric Conversion Factor" should not show on a M meter bill. Can someone update the site to confirm? This question has been asked several times already. You may have worried a lot of people needlessly.

  • Comment number 33.

    My suppliers are Npower, I got old meter Ft3. I couldn't find out the "metric conversion factor" on my bill. Where it will be? On my bill i got

    'M' Number:
    Calorific Value:
    Correction Factor:

    is it ok or am i being over charged?

    Many Thanks in advance.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just watched this story, I’m so angry and upset... this is happening to me (over 2 years), I also have been relying on electric heaters, I even sledge hammered my chimney breast and made a make shift fire, to try and keep warm. I rang my gas supplier when the bills increased so drastically, who performed a test, I took a meter reading everyday for a week. Worst to come I have just spent £2000 replacing my boiler because I was told by my energy supplier that my high gas bills where due to inefficient heating system. What can I do?

  • Comment number 35.

    my meter is metric ive checked my bill from e-on all that it says is converted into kwh am i paying to much my april says 805 estimated and my jan bill says 520 estimated but is right im paying more jan when i used more april

  • Comment number 36.

    Since watching tonights programme I checked my meter and its an ft on it, I then checked my bills and there are no conversion charges, statements etc. Can you please clarify that this should be converted. I so hope that I am being overcharged as we pay a ridiculous amount each month and my husband is always turning off our heating and we are freezing!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    I have just found a decent site reference Under OfGas rules...[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    If your meter has "M" the bill should have three factors:-
    x volume conversion factor (1.022640)
    x calorific value (39.3803)
    divided by kilowatt hour conversion factor (3.6)

    If your meter has "Ft" the bill should have four factors:-
    x imperial to metric conversion factor (2.83)
    x volume conversion factor (1.022640)
    x calorific value (39.3803)
    divided by kilowatt hour conversion factor (3.6)

    Thus an imperial bill on a new metric meter will be 2.83 times too much.

  • Comment number 38.

    Further to my previous blog I seem to be suffering from British Gas's problem. There are in fact about 35 cubic feet in a cubic metre so these people are being overcharged by a factor of 35, not 10 as I said before, and not 3 as suggested in the programme. (Its been a long time since I was at school)

  • Comment number 39.

    No one seems to be allowing new comments, been waiting to view for over 20 minutes, come on beeb.

  • Comment number 40.

    Fantastic! Thanks Watchdog for highlighting this! I've just had my monthly direct debit increased yet again and like most people i am not impressed considering I am on a 'capped' deal till 2012??? Anyway, I have checked my meter and noticed I have one of the old 'Imperial' ones with the ft3 on it. I have looked on my bill and cannot find anywhere to say what (E.oN) are going by??? Apart from alot of figures the only wording I can see that maybe to do with it is 'kWh kilowatt-hours used'??? Please help before I phone EoN up to check if I maybe paying the wrong rates and see about having the Metric meter fitted (I don't want somebody at the other end to try and baffle me with things I don't understand and talk me into them being right if they are not)! Many thanks.......!!!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    I moved to a new house in sept 2000 and was shocked by the size of the bills. I had the gas meter, gas supply, windows, loft and wall insulation all checked - all passed. But still horrific bills.
    We do not use the heating and I am extremely tight about lights, tv, electricity being left on.
    For the last 8 yrs we have lived, during the winter, wrapped in blankets and many layers of clothing! I am a single, disabled mum with a son who has finally reached 18 and will be leaving home soon to join the services.
    For the past 3 yrs I have fought with british gas for them to even send me bills - they finally accepted it was an eroniuos (sorry not sure about spelling) transfer and it still took them another yr to finally get that sorted. I have, after watching your report, been out to check my meter and find the reason for my huge bills is that I am being charged incorrectly with a conversion factor of 3.6!!!!
    We have gone without many things, over the last eight years, just to be able to cook and have hot water - this is not acceptable!!! Especially as I have paid to have appliances checked by british gas and they still havent found the problem. This was a brand new house being charged as if it had an old meter!!!!
    Thank God for watchdog - the British Gas phone line opens at 8am tomorrow and I will be queing to talk to them no matter how long it takes me...............

  • Comment number 42.

    is metric conversion factor the same as volume conversion factor and kilawatt hour conversion factor

  • Comment number 43.

    We have just checked our meter to find that it is the old imperial type. Our gas bill states that the values are converted into kwh, does this mean we are paying too much or is this normal for an imperial gas meter as our bills have astronomical for about 3 years now?

    If this is incorrect, is it possible to claim back overcharging from previous suppliers as we are now on our 3rd gas supplier in 4 years!

    Many thanks.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Im new to this posting messages stuff, my meter has M on it but my bill has a volume conversion factor x 1.0226 a calorific value x 39.2971 and a kilowatt hour conversion factor :- 3.6 is this right Im not sure where to find the answers as no other comments have the answers with them, so im hoping that someone can help

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi after watching your programme i have also checked my meter along with others and found it has f3 on it.i have two children under 8yrs and my wife was diagnosed last year for ill health at which time i was having problems with gas payments,which rose very quickly and was unable to resolve this.i have spoken to various members who are unhelpfull in what i had to say.They fix me on payment plans of over £100pm and then cancel.which they reactivate me on another plan they advise me to pay more to keep in line with usage.they are still stating i owe them £483pds which i think i dont owe.please, please can some one advise me on what to do.thanks vip

  • Comment number 46.

    I've just looked at my meter and bill properly for the first time since I moved into my property 8 years ago.

    I'm confused. I've got a degree in maths and I'm a member of MENSA, so I don't know how many people are expected to understand this.

    My meter is imperial, and this has just been confirmed by British Gas. The readings on my bill are correct, but then it works out the gas I've used by subracting and tells me that's the number of METRIC units I've used!!!

    The poor girl on the heldesk tried her best to explain this to me, but to no avail. She understood the confusion.

    I'm none the wiser really. My bills haven't shot up recently, but there's no way that I know whether I've been overcharged since the day I moved in and switched to British Gas.

  • Comment number 47.


    Could this also refer to the electric metres I wonder?

  • Comment number 48.

    I have just checked my meter and its M3 we are with n power and since we moved in 2 years ago I have been querying why our bills seem to be so high. On 2 occassions last year they told us that we were in debt by nearly £300 which we had apparantley been for 6 months in 1 case and 1 year in another without even being made aware of this. I have just checked my bills and it says 'M' number and then underneath it says correction factor can anyone reply to tell me if this means we have been paying too much? Thanks.

  • Comment number 49.

    I Changed my gas supply from british gas to scottishpower on the 3/11/08 as myself and my husband was told scottishpower were cheeper then british gas as in the 2 years i was with them my weekly payment went from ten pound to 60 pound.
    as i phoned scottishpower up to go with them i told them i was on a weekly payment plan and could i stay on the same payment metherd i was told YES you can all you need to do is once you receive our letter with the date you change to us(scottishpower)you must give us a meter reading so we can send you your payment card out .
    whitch i did in oct 2008 i did not receive my payment card so on the 3rd january 2009 i phoned them again to say i had not received my payment card yet.
    just to be told sorry mrs jewell we do not do that payment metherd anymore.i told them that my father is on that payment metherd all they kept saying is that we DO NOT do that payment metherd the only one we do is monthly payments now. so i asked them how much my monthly paymants would be just to be told i would have to pay 104 pounds a month as that how much gas i used .when asked how they have worked that out as i had only been with them since 3/11/08.i was told it was not there problem it was mine and told the gas had been used so there for i had to pay for it and if i could not afford the 104 pounds a month they would have to come in and put me in a prepayment meter in on the 23/1/09.
    but since seeing watchdog about the meters we looked at are meter and we have the m3 meter in but scottishpower says since the 3/11/08-29/12/08 we have used 248pound and 99pence of gas.but surely i have not used that much gas in two months.if anyone could help us please send me a reply i would be greatful for any help over this as i think these companys charge what they want to

  • Comment number 50.

    Following your superb programme, I have checked our gasmeter and found it is calibrated in FT. We live in an old cottage in the lakes so upgrading is still something for the future. I have checked my recent Gas bills and from the details you have given, I am now confused. My gas bill shows units which are the difference between the last two meter readings. The units are then converted into KWh by multiplying by 2.83(metric conversion factor) then multiplied by 1.0226400(Volume conversation factor) and then multiplied by 38.9738(calorific value) and divided by 3.6(kilowatt hour conversation factor). I then pay 6.065 pence for the first 617KWh and 2.544 pence for the remainder. Do you think I am getting a fair deal?

  • Comment number 51.

    Do people completely ignore their bills or what? To be fair, it is very clear whether an energy company are billing your gas meter as metric or imperial; if you have an imperial meter, you will see meter readings consisting of only four numbers on your bill, wheras metric meter readings have five numbers.

    It's not difficult. Also, if you saw your direct debit amounts had gone up to £300+ per month, common sense dictates that you would check everything on your bill diligently - meter exchanges are not carried out by energy companies, but by meter operators, and you can't always rely on the meter operators to communicate information either in a timely or accurate manner.

    I sympathise with the fact that this couple did not understand their bills but, in all fairness, this is not British Gas' fault. It is up to customers to query strange things going on with their accounts - a company with over 15 million customers cannot be expected to HAVE to constantly monitor people's accounts without provocation. Some people, I imagine, WILL use £300+ gas per month - it's up to the individual to make a company aware of a potential problem of this nature, not the other way round.

  • Comment number 52.

    on my meter it has M on it. my bill says units . total meric unints used cu mtrs than it has units converted to kilowatt hours.
    is this right

  • Comment number 53.

    I am not with British Gas. I left them last November because their charges were high. I have old meter FT.

    Will I get any refund back?


  • Comment number 54.

    I have just researched it
    info follows:

    metric meters will not need to be converted to cubic feet but will still need converting to Kwh. This appears on my bill as smallprint;
    x39.0919(calorific value)
    /(divided) 3.6(kilowathour conv factor

    This is perfectly correct as it has not been multiplied by 2.83 to convert from cubic ft to cubic metres.

    I have a metric metre marked m3

    The gas units i use are the amount of gas that fits into 1 metre cubed (metric) (as opposed to 1 foot cubed - imperial)

    If you have a metric meter, you do not need to use the imperial to metric conversion factor (2.83). In this case, the rough estimate is to multiply the metric units by 11 instead of 31.3.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    FAQ's about Meters and Numbers
    Converting Units to Kilowatt Hours

  • Comment number 55.

    Im with edf my meter is a ft3 my bills are measured in cubic feet there is no convertion on the main billing it just say units used previous n lastest in the small print says explaining your bill tell you how to convert cubic feet into cubic meters so does these mean my bill is already converted as it says how to convert ur self shouldnt it of been done already for you

  • Comment number 56.

    I am more confused now, than I was when I was only half as confused as I am now...
    Could you show how both types of meters are calculated.
    Are all units converted into kilawatt hours?
    My old bills were in cubic metres & new ones in gas units so confused anyway.
    There is a conversion table on the bill though so do both use a conversion type? This one sais volume conversion.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why is the metric conversion factor from 100s of cubic feet to cubic metres x2.83?

    100 cubic feet = 2.831 cubic metres.

    Shouldn't hundreds of cubic feet (which is what the imperial meter records) be DIVIDED by 2.83 to get the volume in cubic metres?

  • Comment number 58.

    Withdraw previous posting

  • Comment number 59.

    British Gas could clarify their explaination of gas used as follows:

    "Imperial units used" are 100 cubic feet units = 2.83166 cubic metres of gas which expands by a factor of 1.0226400 when the pressure at which it is measured drops to atmospheric pressure.

    The Heat of combustion [not"calorific value"] of natural gas is 39324 kJ/m3 (kilojoules per cubic metre).

    1W = 1J/s (1 watt = 1 joule per second). There are 3600 seconds in 1 hour.

    1 kWh = 1000 W for 3600 seconds = 3600 kJ (kilojoules)

    So, 1 imperial unit of gas
    = 100 ft3 = 2.83166 m3 = 2.89577 m3 = 113872 kJ = 31.6312 kWh
    (ft3*100) (/35.315) (*1.02264) (*39323.7) (/3600)
    (ft3/m3) (expansion) (kJ/m3) (kJ/kWh)

  • Comment number 60.

    I am also on pre payment card meters.I also do not receive bills,but will most certainly be checking what kind of meter iv got tomorrow.I used 2 be with British gas 4 my gas,and norweb 4 my electric pre payment meter.I have a different sort of query,i don't get bills,just the odd statement.I own my property and go to the property every day and spend a bit of time there,im staying at my parents at the moment as unfortunately my partner passed away and i couldn't cope with staying in the house on my own.Its a 3 bed semi, (2 big for just 1 person)
    To try and keep my bills down, i had all the radiators turned off at the front part of the house,as i was basically just using the back of the house,some1 told me by doing that it should keep my gas payments down.Yet its so,so cold,its warmer outside than it is in the house,iv had a few problems with my boiler (its a combi boiler,). but i do have a gas fire.My query is the meter man kept calling from Npower and i kept missing him,totally unintentionally.On xmas eve i received a hand delivered letter stating that there was going to be a warrant out on my property,so they could read the meter.A mobile number was left,i called it and the guy said not to worry,those letters are just scare tactics,so you will get in touch.I explained my situation and he said,dont worry ill call you in the new year 2 arrange a convenient time.I never heard anything,until a friend of mine who was painting my front door,told me the gas man had been 2 read the meter.I kept putting money on the meter and noticed that for every £10.00 i paid,i was actually only receiving £2.00!!!!!!! and i had also lost the use of my emergency credit!! I phoned Npower and they xplained that when you dont top up your meter you receive a standing charge of 48pence a day!!!I did xplain that it was summer,and thats why iv probably not topped it up. iv managed to get the debt down to nearly £18.00,im not sure what it was to start with,as i just thought the price of gas was high because of me being on a card meter.But this was ridiculous!! Im in receipt of benefits,hence the pre payment meter,but i must be paying well over the odds.I was told by Npower that i had to pay the debt off 1st and an xtra £7.00 wud make sure the debt was clear???? and once i'd done that i would then receive the full amount I.E.if i put £10.00 on i would get £10.00 worth of gas plus the use of my emergency back.This week iv paid £45.00 on my gas meter and received only £9.00 worth of gas, as they take a huge proportion to pay the debt back, and as i previosly said
    "NO EMERGENCY"!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Is this right? can they do this?Iv ended up paying nearly half of my benefit money on my gas meter this week alone.Is there anything i can do? PLEASE CAN YOU HELP ME? OR AT LEAST DIRECT ME TO SOMEONE WHO COULD HELP ME.
    Many Thanks.

  • Comment number 61.

    As far as I am aware, I am paying for the correct units. However I use pre-payment meter and the cost has gone from 8 per week to heat a small flat (for 6 hours or so a a day) to £15 per week over the past 12 months, which I think is ridiculous for a young person living alone.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have exactly the same problem with my gas account with Southern Electric. It was only last week that one of their Call Centre Operators reduced me to tears through shear frustration and suggested that I applied for a hardship account, when all I was doing was trying to convince them that they were charging me incorrectly. This has been ongoing for over 3 months. Eventually after 5 phone calls, I spoke to a helpful operator who could see exactly what the problem was.

  • Comment number 63.

    There are about 35.3 cubic feet in a cubic meter. These people are paying 35 times too much and not 3 times. I think somebody is confusing length with capacity.

  • Comment number 64.

    After watching the programme I checked my meter and it has M3 on it. Then the bill has a box saying 'M' number correction factor but this is below the meter readings and to the left of the total cost of gas used. Am I being overcharged, as it is not clear whether the conversion is in place?

    Many thanks

  • Comment number 65.

    I'll try to dumb this down so I can try to understand it while I am writing:

    1. The Imperial Metres record cubic ft - OK
    2. so the dial moves faster and records more units used..
    3. The Imperial metre has four digits rather than just the 3 digit on the metric metre. (see below).
    4. There are around 2.83 x 10 cubic ft per cubic metre.

    Question: then why are they converting i.e multiplying the imperial figure when it is already recording too many digits.

    It seems to me that this figure should be divided to be converted to metric...

    Haven't British Gas got it the wrong way round? If you would want to convert Cubic metres to Cubic Ft it would warrant a multiplication of 2.83 - bearing in mind the metric metre has 1 digit less on the Cubic Ft dial

    In short how can anyone be charged more if BG thinks a customer is on Cubic Ft and a reading is sent in to them for Cubic Metres?

    Regarding cases such as the one recorded on your programme - The only explanation(s) I can think of is that the gas metres are read and recorded incorrectly - the new metric metres do have two dials (1 x 4 figs and 1 x 3 figs)..

    Yours confusingly

    Mike Kelley
    Whitley Bay

  • Comment number 66.

    My gas bill was £239.66 (£228.25 gas used). I have a metric meter but my bill shows "Gas units are converted to Kilowat hours using the following formular..." This bill seems very high and the time between the last reading and this latest one is only 6 weeks, not even 3 months. Can anyone say if I might be being overcharged? Great programme.

  • Comment number 67.

    there are usually 10 cubic feet in a cubic meter? Does it vary? When I went to school many years ago these things were fixed. There are in fact over 35 cubic feet in a cubic meter.If you use 100 cubic feet of gas this is approx 2.83 cubic meters.In other words if your monthly bill was £100 per month and a metric meter was installed without them knowing your bill would be £2.83.If they thought your imperial meter was a metric one then your bill would be£3529. Where do they get the 3 times from?

  • Comment number 68.

    Does this apply to electricity meters also? I had a new meter fitted and the bill rose by a third in one month despite no difference in the usage from previous quarters.
    How can I check this? I am in the middle of disputing this with npower but it's slow and stressful

  • Comment number 69.

    I work for an energy company. In the whole time I have worked here I have come across this problem ONCE. Although there is some issues with imperial and metric meters, this isn't an issue that arises a lot. Out of our hundreds of thousands of customers, about 99% of customers are being billed correctly. I appreciate for that one percent it is a big issue but it can be easily rectified and it is not done purposely.

  • Comment number 70.

    The metric conversion figures used in the news item must be calculated differently from 'real'conversion ones. why? Because there are 35.313 ft3 in a m3. Think of a foot and the fact that there are over 3ft in a metre.

  • Comment number 71.


    Just spoken to British Gas on this issue. Firstly They say I am being charged on a Metric Meter and secondly all their bills contain a conversion factor to show what it would be if charged under the imperial method.

    Checking my bill I see that a conversion factor has been applied to arrive at the total owed.

    The Program appears to imply that a conversion factor should not be showing if a Metric meter has been installed.

    I have been a customer of British Gas since August 2006 so in theory I have been overcharged since then.


  • Comment number 72.

    Is the same thing applical to eletricity meters? My mother in law has been having the same type of problem with NPower and her electricity bill, she had a new meter fitted a year and a half ago and ever since her bills have been very high

  • Comment number 73.

    I to as number 17
    my meter has not got ft or m3 on it but has cubic feet wrote on it is this the same

  • Comment number 74.

    I work for an energy company and would like to show everyone the formula for converting from units to kwhs to avoid further confusion.....
    We take the difference between the present and previous readings and multiply it by 2.83 to convert it from cubic feet to cubic meters (this step is the only step not needed if you have a metric meter). Then you multiply the cubic meters by the volume conversion factor (which will always be 1.02264) then by the calorific value which will be printed on your bill (you can take 39.5 as a rough guidline). Finally we devide the answer by 3.6 to give kilowatt-hrs consumed. Multiply this by the unit rate to give amount in monetary terms. I hope this helps clear up the other figures appearing on your bills.

  • Comment number 75.

    I know for a fact that British Gas do not believe even their own Meter Readers.

    I have never switched supplier { electricity and gas supplied by British Gas } but five years ago I got them to remove my Prepayment meter and fit a credit meter for my electricity supply and that was the biggest mistake of my life.

    Even although British Gas own Meter Readers were sending in the correct readings for the new Meter British Gas did not adjust their records and they transferred the old meter reading as if it was still in place.

    Some Months my account was adjusted ten times in one day even although the adjustments never corrected the situation.

    Hundreds of calls and e-mails later they sent out a inspector and he had the cheek to claim I had changed the meter myself but that still did not solve the problem.

    It ran on for four and a half years before the penny dropped that the guy who changed the meter did not ' register ' the new meter even although I had warned them that is what I think did happen.

    I had sent them a video showing the meter and clearly showing the meter number.

    Two inspectors later nothing was changing so I complained to OFGEM and The Energy Ombudsman it was only when I had made a official Complaint did British Gas stand up and take notice.

    At first they claimed their Meter Readers were unable to gain access to read the meter so they blamed me for the problem although they quickly had to withdraw that allegation when I pointed out that both meters were outside on the wall .

    They then blamed a new Computer system even although the problem first started two years before they switched Computers.

    All of a sudden they found all the old meter readings and they worked out I had been overcharged by twelve hundred Pounds.

    They failed to pay any interest on the money.

    British Gas is a joke but better the devil you know.

    If the Government brought in a fine system - lets say ten pounds for every Month they did not sort out the problem that would soon get their act sorted out.

    I was never compensated for all the years of wasted phone calls and no one took action on the Employees who did not sort the problem out.

    Its not right and its such a stressful situation that sadly during all of this I had a stroke which I firmly believe was brought on because of this situation.

  • Comment number 76.

    We had the opposite problem when we switched suppliers. Are meter is in cu ft and were charged as if the readings were in cu meter. A lot of effort to persuade the supply company that the meter was in cu ft.
    They were only interested in the number of digits on the meter rather than the units label.
    Persumably some organisation holds a database with the meter number and the address. Is this info incorrect?

  • Comment number 77.

    1 cubic meter = 35.3146667 cubic foot

    How on earth does the conversion factor work based on the above conversion (wikepedia)
    It does add up me -

  • Comment number 78.

    I also have had problems with British Gas. In May I received an electricity bill for £428. When I disputed this - oops they made a mistake it should have been £70. The next bill was for £412, oops they made a mistake should have been £50. November I received a bill for £385 with pages of explanation going back to May 2005, which was before I moved into my house. I paid £150 but - Oops they made another mistake as on 8 January I was told that now I am now in credit for £79 and they should not have calculated my bill going back BEFORE I started using British Gas. On 13 January, just 5 days later, I received a letter stating that if I didn't pay £212 immediately, my electricity would be cut off. I called British Gas and was told I owed £80. When I asked for an explanation of why five days earlier I had been told that I was in credit, I was asked for a meter reading. Needless to say, I am am extremely annoyed at this company and am disputing their billing. British Gas shows that it does not pay any attention to the accuracy of their billing system or care about the stress they cause their customers.

  • Comment number 79.

    We are with npower our units are converted to kilowatt hours. In the box below the charges it has an M number and Correction Factor of 1.022640 - which appears to be normal and right. I am assuming volume conversion factor and correction factor mean the same thing. (This might help others). Also we find that with both gas and electric bills they are difficult to follow and understand (eg. first 6 at 5.268p and next 62 at 2.294p) How are you supposed to be able to compare prices with other suppliers.

  • Comment number 80.

    By the way, i would also recommend ensuring that the meter serial number on your bill matches that on your meter (you will find it on the front by a barcode) and that you supply your energy provider with meter reads regularly to ensure you aren't being overcharged or worse still undercharged and ending up with a large deficit. If you do end up underpaying and have a deficit on your account the company should be helpful in splitting the deficit over a reasonable period of time. My company will either split it over number of months cust has been in property if less than a yr or 12months.

  • Comment number 81.

    My gas supplier is EON (elect too)-The BBC Watchdog article on line mentions the conversion factor on bills (usually 1.02264)-even for meters reading directly in cubic metres but does not say what it actually is.When I phoned EON, they could not tell me immediately either what this is.However they came back to me and it transpires it's a "volume conversion factor" -an industry standard-since 1997-used because gas volume changes due to ambient temperature and pressure-ideally our meters would like to be at 15C but of course ambient temperature outside varies
    daily.Hope this clears up this anomaly which is quite seperate from the cu ft to cubic meters correction factor raised my Watchdog.

  • Comment number 82.

    My bill got rather excessive and Npower wished to increase my direct debit from £42 per month to £169 per month
    I phoned them and said "Why haven't they taken any note of 3 phoned in readings?" -"Oh" They replied "We don't bother with those. We wait untill with get a reading from the meter reading company! Then overcharge you." "Meanwhile we do the bill using meaningless estimates". So I now have the situation where they are trying to quadruple my monthly direct debit!!

  • Comment number 83.

    There is already a system in-place to solve this problem.
    The people who come around to take meter readings use a hand-held computer which will show the meter serial number. Its their job to check this number and make sure the main records are correct.
    They are obviously not doing this part of their job because it will slow them down.
    As a handheld software developer I have seen this before and is a fairly common problem for data which cannot be validated. The software on the hand held should be changed to force them to enter say the last 5 digits each time. If no match then they should then be asked to enter all the new meter details including the units and full serial number.
    I am sure the energy companies will just say all thats needed is some new training for the operators, which solves nothing really.

  • Comment number 84.

    I have been argueing with Scottish Gas for years about the extreme monthly payments towards my Bill, my heating is off all day and on for couple of hours a night!!! and i can never afford to switch supplier as i am always in debit??!!

    I am unsure as a lot of people, my meter is M3 but my bill is in kilowatts, but mentions the 2.83 conversions etc at the I have a claim??

  • Comment number 85.


    Is it by 1.02264? If so that is fine. If you read your invoice, it has a section to cal your bill.

    Oh and as a energy advisor, your supplier cannot refuse to tell you.

  • Comment number 86.

    I am on a card meter and have been for 20 odd years and never had a problem.
    Last summer i had my meter changed and i have been spending a fortune ever since.
    Just last month i put £60.00 on my meter, so far this month i have put on over £30.
    I have checked my meter and is M3.
    Can anyone advise if this is for all meters or just for the people that get bills.
    Trying to speak to some one at British Gas that is prefered to listen and understand is no mean feat.
    At 2.00am every morning i am having as much as 42p taken off my credit for not useing enough gas. So i am getting done all ways.
    Can someone please help and advice.

  • Comment number 87.

    Can someone explain why with an imperial meter the number of units used must be multiplied by 2.83? Surely as cubic feet are smaller than cubic meters the number of units should be divided by whatever the right figure is?

  • Comment number 88.

    There appears to be a lot of confusion between the Metric Conversion and Volume conversion!

    A Volume conversion factor of around 1.0226400" is completely normal and RIGHT regardless of your meter, but a 'metric conversion factor of around 2.83' is not, if you ALREADY have a METRIC meter.
    However, a metric conversion factor of 2.83 will be required IF you have an IMPERIAL meter.

    Basically-if you have a metric meter with "volume conversion" on your bill-youre probably being charged correctly, however if you have a metric metre and have "metric conversion" on your bill-youre probably being over charged

    Hope this helps

  • Comment number 89.

    We had mains gas installed in our house in October, then received a "final gas bill" in December,for gas used in September, before the meter or the gas supply had been installed. Apparently the amount for £32 was from a meter reading, tho the meter was non-existent! After a phone call we were told the bill had been cancelled, but received another letter, threatening to take action if we didn't pay up, this month. After another phone call, explaining once again that there had been no gas supply to the house at all until Oct, the bill has apparently been cancelled. We are waiting to see what happens next month...

  • Comment number 90.

    I have checked my meter and it does have ft on the meter, but on my bills I do not have metric conversion.
    My bills have been very high. We are in a 3 bed house. Could we have been paying more than we should have? We are with E-on. GLGreen

  • Comment number 91.

    I had received ridiculous gas bills (£279 for 3 months in May 07) when I was with npower, which made me switch to British Gas prepayment meter ( I live in a small 2 bedroom flat)! I reported an over expenditure on my gas and BG changed my meter (into the new meters) because there seemed to be a gas leek. Last week I put £20 on my card and this morning i had no gas again! Is this normal do you think?

  • Comment number 92.


    "My bill also seems to have calorific value then cubic metres in brackets, then an equals sign and a number followed by kWh?"

    Industry standard formula:

    Take the difference between the present and previous readings.

    Multiply by 2.83 to convert it from cubic feet to cubic meters (this step is not needed if you have a metric meter.

    Then we multiply by the volume conversion factor (1.02264).

    Then we multiply by the Calorific Value (e.g. 38.100).

    Finally we divide the answer by 3.6 to give the number of kilowatt hours.

    Then times by unit cost equals your total.

    For all thoses questions about if your being billed right. Just check the meter to see if m3 or ft3 is on there to see if imperial or metric.

  • Comment number 93.

    As someone who until last november had never had gas, watched the show with great interest, my supplier had merged my electric and gas together on the one bill and explained to me that although my meter was metric there was a formula for calculating units actually used which is:units x1.022640 x calorific value eg:40.5 divided by 3.6 this will give you your exact units used which when multiplied by unit price will give you your charge.
    So if my monthly meter reading said that I had used 149 units, therefore 149 x 1.022640 x 40.5 then divided by 3.6 =1714 units KWH @ 3.811p = £65.32 bill before std charge and vat are added.

    After watching last nights show I felt somewhat confused so today I rang my supplier who said that the Volume correction was their way of accurately calculating customers gas useage.

  • Comment number 94.

    re queries on the error factor.

    Imperial meters do not actually measure cubic ft(ft3)as stated on the program, but 100s of cubic ft. One cubic metre (m3) is 35.314ft3 so 100ft3 is 100/35.314 = 2.832m3. To convert an Imperial meter reading (in 100sft3) to metric m3 you therefore multiply by 2.832. As a result if your meter is metric and the supplier thinks your meter is imperial your bill will be 2.832 times too large.

    Rather worringly the reverse can, in theory, occur. If you have an imperial meter and the supplier thinks you have a metric meter you will be UNDERCHARGED by a factor of 2.832.

    Overcharging should only occur with metric(m3)meters

  • Comment number 95.


    Have you checked the unit amount you've been charged for?

    It maybe that the that your new to that supplier and that the opening read is out (or your estimate is quite high), or that you've had a reading that has caught up with you because of many months of estimated billing. Could be a couple of things, if your not sure, contact your supplier and they can look at it for you.

  • Comment number 96.

    This is a bit technical, but may help people to understand how you get from a meter reading to a bill

    A gas-meter measures VOLUME of gas, but you pay for the ENERGY you use. Energy is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). The gas supplier therefore has to convert the volume of gas to kWh

    The term advance is used by suppliers. This is simply the difference between the old reading and the new reading, so if your last reading was 5342 and the new reading is 5525 the advance is 183 VOLUME units (either 100sft3 or m3 depending on whether it is an imperial or metric meter).

    Normally suppliers do the calculation in m3 so an imperial advance is multiplied by 2.832 to convert 100sft3 to m3

    Next a small correction factor is applied to convert the measured volume to a standardised condition. This is called the correction factor and is typically around 1.023. The effect of this is small (around 2%)

    The supplier now knows the true volume of gas delivered. It is now converted into energy. To do this, the volume is multiplied by the calorific value, typically 38.9, and divided by 3.6. This converts from m3 to KWh.

    183 m3 is thus 183x1.023x38.9/3.6
    = 2022kWh
    Your supplier charges you by the kWh, so if they charge 3.1p per kWh the bill will be:
    In practice things like standing charge will also come into the bill.

    If the supplier thinks there is an imperial meter they will convert the 100sft3 to m3 by multiplying the advance by the 2.832 conversion factor. An advance of 183 units on an imperial meter would thus be:
    = 5729kWh
    which would cost
    5729x0.031 = 177.60GBP

  • Comment number 97.

    Post 74 is very accurate imo. It ties in with my post 54.

    If you have a m3 meter, there should not be the x2.83 conversion.

    There still will be a conversion to show the amount of gas in KwH, so you can compare it to electrical appliance usage. i.e a gas fire compared to an electric fire etc.

    This conversion is fine and relies of the physics of volume and calorific heat value etc.

    I read some stuff on a website called ukpower, it has a faq page. there is also a site under ukenergy. Both are dot co dot uk sites.

    IF you have a m3 meter and the conversion is being multiplied by 2.83 as well as the other factors you need to query it as it shouldn't be.

  • Comment number 98.

    I have a metric meter and have checked with British Gas today and they assure me all is OK re billing. I asked what did the term 'volume conversion factor mean?' This was stated to mean - part of the formula to convert gas units used to kilowatt hours. Perhaps you could make this point crystal clear to viewers/consumers who may also be uncertain? I am of course assuming that BG are right!

  • Comment number 99.

    hi , can someone please help me . i have been having problems with my electric bills for the last 2 years and just wondered if this problem is the same with electric meters, my meter is imperial. two of us live in a 4 bedroom house, we dont use the cooker or immersion heater, we have also stopped using the storage heaters for the last 2 years. i just recieved a quaterly bill for £575 . for 3 weeks of that we were on holiday, what? . last year i was paying £110pm and at the end of the year had to pay a extra £650. dont know what is going on but the supplier is giving no help at all. does anyone have the same problem? thankyou .

  • Comment number 100.

    I too am a Utility Warehouse customer since 13th October 2008 and moved from Swalec. I read my meter on 03/01/09 and gave my reading to Utility Warehouse and was very concerned when they advise my gas bill was over £500 for 3 months. I told them this couldn't be correct and they advised that meters are rarely faulty but to read my meter everyday for 7 days. I rung them back a week later to advise of reading and it worked out I had used approx £60 in one week. I was told again by the advisor that the mtr couldn't be faulty and it was down to my usage but both my husband and I work during the week and the children are in school so heating only on for 1 hour in the morning and from 4pm to 10pm in the evening. It was only when watching Watchdog on Monday evening and checking my gas bill did I realise that Utility Warehouse were calculating my bill on an Imperial meter when I have a metric meter which had been changed in June 2007. I rung them on Tuesday and they were apologetic but advised they have their information from the national database but as I pointed out Swalec were calculating my bills correctly so how could they get this information incorrect. I am just so glad that I seen the programme or otherwise I wuld be none the wiser and would be continuing to worry on how on earth I would be able to afford my next gas bill.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]


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