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sp7924

Being charged business rates on a residential property

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I moved into a rental flat in December 2014 and phoned the supplier (British Gas) in January 2015 to inform them. They said that the account was a business one and that they would have to get it changed over to residential. I was then asked a series or questions about usage etc to set the residential account up. I have no idea how it was ever a commercial property as it is just a flat within a block of flats.

 

I didn't hear anything so I called back and was told that there were no records of my previous call and they went through the same questions again. To my annoyance I then received a bill on business rates. This happened multiple times, I would call to tell them of the error but I was no closer to getting it resolved so in October 2015 I raised a complaint.

 

Nothing happened despite my multiple emails to the customer services team which were roundly ignored. I then received a final demand for around £1,100 (again on business rates) despite never having received this bill previously, and was threatened with court action if I didn't respond within 7 days. I called British Gas and was told that it was an error and that I shouldn't be billed on business rates. After only 4 days, the case was referred to a Solicitors firm.

 

I immediately raised a complaint with the Energy Ombudsman. Their decision is that British Gas Business should refund 50% of the £1,100 bill. However this is the business rates bill and I have never been a business customer. So I referred it back to them, saying that their decision was based on an erroneous figure and asked them what the bill would have been on residential rates to see if the offer is a fair one (my desired outcome is a substantial reduction on the residential bill due to their sheer incompetence and the time, energy and phone bills I have incurred).

 

However, the Ombudsman considers it fair that I am charged on business rates until I change the account over, and they say that I can provide no evidence that I contacted them prior to October 2015 (as mentioned above they kept no records of my lengthy phone call in January 2015), and therefore the 50% reduction on business rates is a fair offer in their eyes. My view is that I should be charged on residential rates from the outset as I have never been a business customer. British Gas are effectively profiting from their own incompetence. I believe the residential bill would have been similar to the 50% reduced bill so I will effectively receive no compensation for distress, inconvenience, phone bills etc.

 

I can't see how I have much choice but to accept the proposal from the Ombudsman but it feels very unfair and I just wanted to see if anyone had any experience of similar situations, or any thoughts on the points raised above. I've tried to include as much info as possible but feel free to ask any questions.

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was it an actual ombudsman that said that, or an adjudicator?


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I've checked my emails and they are from Ombudsman Services (Energy), so I believe it is the energy Ombudsman. They say that because British Gas and British Gas Business are completely separate legal entities they are entitled to charge me on business rates until I can get the account switched.

Edited by sp7924

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I've checked my emails and they are from Ombudsman Services (Energy), so I believe it is the energy Ombudsman. They say that because British Gas and British Gas Business are completely separate legal entities they are entitled to charge me on business rates until I can get the account switched.

 

Think this is correct. In this situation, as a domestic customer you set up an account with a supplier and the previous arrangement is cancelled.

 

You would have to think how you would legally challenge the difference in cost between the 50% reduction being offered on the business bill and the domestic tariff cost. This might be say £200, but you then have to think of the process. You need to know the real difference in cost, you would ideally need to evidence contact with British Gas and then about contract issues. British Gas might well defend any court claim and it then becomes a hassle.

 

Put it down as a learning experience or continue to fight issuing a court claim against BG, if you can find a way of doing this.


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you need to have a go at whoever rents you the property as well to see if they opened the account. Finding out the relevant tariff for when you moved in is fairly straightforward as will be getting the opening meter reading. You can use that against BG because they will have the meter number and know that it was residential all along. Get hold of your phone records to show when you phoned BG, the content of the call is not necessary, just proof you made it. Go back to the Ombudsman and tell them that you want them to reconsider their irrational/perverse decision as wish to challenge its lawfulness.

You can take BG to court for overcharging.

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I don't have any evidence that I called them in January 2015, and then again in around May 2015 before I ultimately raised a complaint in October 2015. I have a new phone since then and there are no records, British Gas have clearly not kept any either.

 

I had the opening meter reading and British Gas have been using the updated version of this to charge me on the residential tariff from January 1st 2016.

 

Had I known that I would ever be charged on business rates then I would have acted a lot quicker and kept detailed phone records. I may need to put this one down to experience, I'm not even in the UK at the moment so can't see how I can bring a court claim, and I'm not sure if it's worth the effort for £100-200 or thereabouts.

 

Either way I shall not be using British Gas ever again, they can join BT on my blacklist.

 

Thank you for your replies.

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you do have evidence, the phone number will be on your old telephone statements. You wont have to prove the content of the call, just show you made one and that will be enough to persuade a judge that BG are incompetent so nothing has changed there. The fact you are on a business tariff will do the rest for you.

Edited by Andyorch
edited

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Oh yeah, I hadn't thought of that, I probably can get archived phone bills from EE. The only problem is that I've replied to the Ombudsman to say that I accept their decision. Will that be an issue or will I be able to reopen it in light of the new evidence?

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