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Being hassled by Westcot re British Gas Business bill with incorrect electricity reading!


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Following moving into my business premises in April 2004, British Gas kept demanding payment for electricity based on the wrong meter reading (their reading much higher than the actual one). I called them back repeatedly to give the right meter reading but they kept ignoring this and carried on sending inaccurate bills for a whole year. Because of the discrepancy in meter readings, I was prevented from entering into a contract with them; so not only were they quoting the wrong electricity reading, but also applying very high electricity units and standing charges.

 

Eventually (in May 2005) I changed electricity supplier (Powergen) and started paying my bills according to correct meter readings.

 

I continued to try and solve the situation with British Gas, but realised that even a partial payment I made to them in February 2005 did not show up on my account with them, but instead – to their own admission - was credited to the previous occupier’s account! In July 2005 I was asked to fax them proof of that payment, which I did, following which I never heard from British Gas again.

 

That was until February 2008, when I received a ‘Notice of debt Collectionfrom Westcot Credit Services Ltd, demanding payment of the outstanding balance from British Gas. I replied to them in writing explaining the whole situation and enclosing all relevants documents to prove it. All I got in reply was more demands for payment and a copy of the British Gas invoice showing the wrong meter reading. They have since phoned me and tried to force me into ‘making them an offer’ and threatened me that this would go for litigation.

 

The irony is that, due to competitive pricing, I did change supplier again back in September 2007 and am now back with British Gas, this time on a contract and with the right meter reading. When I approached British Gas about this matter a few days ago, I was told it had nothing to do with them as they ‘have sold their debt to Westcot’.

 

Despite the intimidating demand for payment by Westcot for a sum that is based on a reading way above the actual one (the reading quoted is 155118 when it should have been 85154) I have looked into how much I would have to pay, based on the actual reading. The resulting amount is still very high, due to the high unit rate and standing charges applied. So I don’t feel comfortable ‘making an offer’ to Westcot based on that either. They asked for me to ring them back, not to put it in writing, which I find strange… what should I do?

 

1. Shall I let Westcot challenge it to court, since I have evidence that the reading was wrong and even British Gas knows it by now?

 

2. Will Westcot accept to deduct of the total what I can prove I paid British Gas, even though it was never credited to my account?

 

3. Is there any way that I pay for the units used at a lower rate since British Gas never allowed me to enter a contract at the time?

 

4. Or isn’t there a legal way to totally cancel this debt, due to the fact that British Gas invoicing was based on the wrong data in the first place?

 

Have now received another 5 more telephone messages since last week from Westcot and a new letter of "Pre-Legal Notification", never mentioning the fact that their meter reading is incorrect.

 

Would be greatful for any advice from the forum's members, thanks! :confused:

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Send Wescots this

Dear Sir/Madam

You have contacted me/us regarding the account with the above reference number, which you claim is owed by myself/ourselves.

I/we would point out that I/we have no knowledge of any such debt being owed to (insert company name).

I am/we are familiar with the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidance which states that it unfair to send demands for payment to an individual when it is uncertain that they are the debtor in question.

I/we would also point out that the OFT say under the Guidance that it is unfair to pursue third parties for payment when they are not liable. In not ceasing collection activity whilst investigating a reasonably queried or disputed debt you are using deceptive/and or unfair methods.

Furthermore ignoring and/or disregarding claims that debts have been settled or are disputed and continuing to make unjustified demands for payment amounts to physical/psychological harassment.

I/we would ask that no further contact be made concerning the above account unless you can provide evidence as to my/our liability for the debt in question.

I/we await your written confirmation that this matter is now closed. Otherwise I will have no option but to make a complaint to the trading standards department and consider informing the OFT of your actions.

I/we look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully

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Many thanks for quick reply, however don't really think this applies to me as Westcot has already sent me a copy of the original invoice from British Gas to my name, address etc. the only issue with that invoice is that it states an incorrect meter reading... does that make the invoice invalid? or me not liable for it, just because of the wrong reading? If so, then I guess your letter might work - just not entirely sure it does address this particular issue...:confused:

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I would send it them anyway as you have a dispute with British Gas over readings and amount owed.

Try and deal with B/Gas direct and take Wescots out of loop,drives them mad and they loose all there comission.

 

:D

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Ok thanks boyboynova, they have been calling me non stop since last time so I have just sent a copy of your letter today, adding my bit in about the fact that "I have included sufficient evidence in my previous letter to you to demonstrate that I am not liable for this debt to British Gas as it stands", i.e. if they can't change the meter reading on the bill to reflect the real situation, then it's not my debt!

Let's hope this works and thanks again for help - will post more about this as soon as I hear from them, hopefully in the right direction! :-|

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  • 4 weeks later...

Help, everyone!:eek:

 

The saga continues...Westcot not impressed by my letter, only managed to delay them a bit but just received yet another letter from them saying:

"Thank you for your recent enquiry re the outstanding balance and its liability.

Having contacted our client, they have advised the account has been billed throughout in your name, therefore, you remain liable for the outstanding balance. It is our clients policy not to become involved in third party disputes, any tenancy agreement or arrangements made between you and another party is a matter you must resolve.

In view of the above, the balance is correct and due. Payment is reuired by return made payable to Wstcot Credit Services, ensuring the above account number is quoted on the reverse of the remittance.

Trusting the above clarifies the situation."

 

A few days ago, I emailed the guy at British Gas who is dealing with my current contract, with attached letter from westcot and original invoice showing wrong meter reading... no reply so far but he had already told me on the phone weeks ago that it had nothing to do with BG anymore as they have sold the debt to Westcot...

 

So I am really at a loss as to what to do now... Westcot have never ever admitted or mentioned the fact that the electricity meter reading on the bill was totally wrong! feels like a bit of a dead dialogue between them and me... They keep saying it's in my name, therefore I should pay. I keep saying it is billed wrongly, therefore I can't pay for something I did not use.

 

Any idea, out there?:confused:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Still no news from British Gas, have now emailed their complaints department...

 

But... just received FINAL NOTICE from Wescot saying that if i don't pay, "a Claim Form/Summons may be lodged with Hull County Court or the Llocal Sheriff Court for residents in Scotland" ??? what is that? I'm not in Scotland and this is a business account???

 

So been searching other threads in this forum for a clue and now wondering if it is possible to issue Westcot with a CCA letter, despite the fact that this is not about credit but simply a gas bill...

 

Would that help, or just be laughed at?:confused:

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What I would do and I have ny own saga with British Gas

 

Make sure that you have all documents and letters from British gas and Westcott and all your own letters. Have the proof of your payment to hand.

 

Stop entirely talking on the phone about this to anyone. It is so easy for them to deny anything said on the phone or to claim any recording has been erased. Every thing must be in writing.

 

Write one letter to Westcott (recorded delivery) saying that the invoice they have from British Gas is incorrect and is still in dispute with British Gas. The account should not have been passed/sold to them. Advise them strongly to pass the account back because you will not deal with them. Tell them that any further communication from them will be deemed harrassment.

 

They are threatening court action. Take no notice - this standard practice to scare payment out of you. Court action is a long way off and you will get plenty of notice.

 

If they persist in phoning you refuse to identify yourself and they will have to shut up. Alternatively have some fun with them but do not discuss the account. If they persist send them the harrassment letter and report them to OFT. Otherwise do not contact them at all.

 

 

Then S.A.R - (Subject Access Request) British Gas for everything they have on you including all transcript of phone calls. After you are satisfied that you have all they have you need to contact British Gas again via there complaints procedure and the Chaiman of Centrica.

 

If you have time do some research on British Gas's computer systems you will find that they are so bad that BG are sueing the IT firm that installed them. They have not sorted the multitude of problems they have and they are so stretched that it will be many months before you get a sensible answer.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you pelham9, I was just despairing to get any more advice on this from the forum, so you've made my day :)!

 

What a day though! just received a letter this morning from Nelson Guest & Partners Solicitors, instructed by Wescot to start legal actions if I don't pay within 10 days of their letter (dated from 6 August - but only received on 11 August... how convenient!)

 

Meanwhile, my accounts manager at British Gas has asked me by email to confirm whether this was for a business or residential electricity account... I replied to his email last Wednesday, enclosing copies of letter from westcot and original bill showing wrong meter reading. No news back from him so far but I have re-emailed him today again.

 

I will follow your advice re

- writing again to westcot (with a copy to their new solicitor), as I think you've just hit the spot there... and then... we'll see...

- And yes I have kept copies of every letter sent and received, proof of my payment, etc.

- Oh and will try and send a SAR to British Gas, although I have already complained through their complaints department and sent them what I had as evidence there was a mistake made

 

Many thanks again - I'll keep this thread up to date - hopefully with a happy ending, sooner or later!

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