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British Gas suddenly cut off gas supply and accused of tampering meter


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Hello all,

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and any advice appreciated.

 

My parents own a Chinese takeaway and live in the adjoining house next door.

They moved in 17 years ago

 

 

after the initial contact with British gas to inform them they have moved in

(which I think I did for them as a teenager)

they have not had much contact since and just paid bills as and when they arrived.

Always assumed one meter for the takeaway and the residential house as they both share the same door number.

 

In all truthfulness I think they probably knew that something wasn't quite right but with limited English without relying on others they never tried in earnest to peruse the reasons why their gas bill felt cheap.

 

a man came to the door a couple of weeks ago and asked to see the gas meter.

My father showed him to the box which is attached to the outside of the house as that's the one that's always been read by British gas.

 

 

He asked for access to the box that they usually show the npower for electric but they couldn't find the key at the time and takeaway was open.

The man said he would be back but wouldn't give my father a business card.

All he got was a bit of paper with a mobile number and first name.

 

I come back from holiday abroad and my father tells me about this man.

I wasn't keen to ring a random mobile number on a piece of paper and my father couldn't even tell me what company he was from

(I accept he may have tried to explain himself to my father but surely he should've recognised that there was a language barrier and his point may not have been communicated)

 

I did my own investigations and we realised there was an additional meter.

I rang citizens advice and M meter number helpline and concluded that the meter is not registered and must be for the takeaway only.

 

 

The meter which has been registered with British gas is actually for the residential part of the property.

I then called uswitch to seek some advice on getting the meter registered

(as citizens advice suggested picking a supplier).

They did a bit of digging for me and I've been talking to Eon about registering a shipperless supply.

 

In the meantime my father was waiting for the gentleman to return armed with instructions to find out where he was from.

 

He did return tonight, with a warrant.

This time he had the police and all of his ID and helpfully gave my father a letter as he cut off the supply to his livelihood and took the meter away with a number to ring on Monday.

 

I briefly got to talk to the gentleman on the phone as my parents rang me in distress.

It sounded like this gentleman feels like he has made all the communication he needed to before taking the meter away.

 

 

However, I've not seen any letters or correspondence from British gas.

He claims to have been to the premises on numerous occasions and couldn't get access

but the takeaway is not open before 5pm so if he came during regular working hours that would indeed be the case.

 

 

He told me that the options were to "pay the bill tonight" or "be cut off"

but we've had no additional bills and when I queried said bill on the phone to prevent being cut off he said he "hadn't worked it out yet".

 

Having now read the only piece of written correspondence that has been left,

it seems that my parents have been accused of tampering with their meter and they need to ring a phone number on Monday to settle an amount that is before reconnecting.

 

I'm not disputing that there is a problem that needs to be rectified.

However, I feel that to come and cut the supply off at 5pm on Friday night,

knowing that their business can't run over the weekend and no one is around for them to seek help is quite out of order.

 

Perhaps I should've called the mobile number first rather than seek third party advice

but I honestly questioned the identity of the man who came round and wouldn't leave a business card or official letter.

 

If the meter wasn't registered to British Gas was he allowed to take the meter?

As I said I was in the process of talking to Eon to sort out the supply.

 

 

I think the issue is murkied by the fact that the residential property and takeaway both share the same door number and apparently it is British Gas business which supplies the address.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read. Haven't been able to sleep because of it. Any advice greatly appreciated.

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so who has been paid for the gas the business has been using for 17yrs?

 

did the business think it was free?

 

dx

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DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

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are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

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AFAIK all gas/elec meters should be recorded on a central Transco database and should appear on each of theSupplier's usage bill for the property of record.

Who lost energy when the supply was disconnected .. residence, takeaway, both?

If B Gas had obtained a Warrant to disconnect supply for a given address - then quite legal, even if the supply had beeb 'diverted' elsewhere.

OP needs to check ~17 years of paperwork/bills.

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Sorry i find this confusing.

 

British Gas supply revenue protection only seem to have cut off their registered meter , because they believe the meter has been tampered with. I don't think they can cut off a supply registered to another energy supplier, because they would not have legal authority to cut off another companies supply.

 

Emily, i think you need to find out exact information about the supply meter that has been cut off. Your parents need to authorise for you to speak on their behalf to revenue protection that is dealing with this, so you can find out more. Perhaps when you visit your parents, you can call whoever is dealing with this at British Gas

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AFAIK all gas/elec meters should be recorded on a central Transco database and should appear on each of theSupplier's usage bill for the property of record.

Who lost energy when the supply was disconnected .. residence, takeaway, both?

If B Gas had obtained a Warrant to disconnect supply for a given address - then quite legal, even if the supply had beeb 'diverted' elsewhere.

OP needs to check ~17 years of paperwork/bills.

 

The takeaway has lost supply.

Parents have never done anything themselves to divert supply.

 

 

I think this set up must have always been the case since they moved in.

2 meters.

One takeaway,

one residential.

 

 

Both officially classed under the same door number.

 

 

There's not any paperwork to check

- bills have come from British Gas but when I started investigating they have only been billing one meter. The other appears to be unregistered.

 

Sorry i find this confusing.

 

British Gas supply revenue protection only seem to have cut off their registered meter , because they believe the meter has been tampered with. I don't think they can cut off a supply registered to another energy supplier, because they would not have legal authority to cut off another companies supply.

 

Emily, i think you need to find out exact information about the supply meter that has been cut off. Your parents need to authorise for you to speak on their behalf to revenue protection that is dealing with this, so you can find out more. Perhaps when you visit your parents, you can call whoever is dealing with this at British Gas

 

They haven't cut off the meter that is registered to them.

(Which now on investigation appears to be for residential property but logged with British gas buslness somehow).

 

It's a meter that is strictly on the premises of the supply address though.

I think the takeaway and residential property should really be thought of as two separate addresses they've always been considered as one.

 

I just feel this has all been a bit heavy handed as to my parents there was no warning of being cut off and no official letters sent.

If something had been sent I would've been able to intercept earlier.

 

 

Like I said he did leave a number on the first visit but it was scribbled on a piece of paper with only a first name rather than a business card and I didn't ring it back.

 

It wasn't registered to another supplier but when I rang transco and found out it wasn't registered they and citizen advice told me to pick a supplier and register it.

Which was what I was in the process of doing through uswitch who pointed me to Eon.

 

It is very confusing indeed and something that my parents would not have been able to unravel on their own. I'm concerned that the accusation of meter tampering appears quite serious and that is not the case at all.

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it certainly doesnt appear to be meter tampering but just a meter and supply they didnt record when it was installed into a business premises.

 

 

Usually what happens is that the gas co read the meter and works out a bill for the gas and makes a demand for payment.

 

 

Now 17 years worth of gas is a hefty chunk to find in one go

so they assess the business' ability to enter into a payment schedule and take it from there.

iF they belive that the business is a no-hoper they may well cut off the supply after about a week of assessing the business.

 

If the meter has been tampered with then they are entitled to see the meter is examined by an independent person to agree of disagree with this conclusion.

 

 

It seems to me as though the person calling has used the absolute maximum of his powers rather than investigating things and trying to make a commercial decision. This may work out to your parents advantage if the meter is not dud but of course they are left without an income and expenses to bear in the meanwhile.

 

You will need to bone up on the law around gas supply to beat them with their own stick

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Thanks for the responses - its been a stressful weekend.

 

we've been in touch with the British Gas man

(the one who came to take the meter away)

and explained the situation as we saw it.

 

He's not accusing them of any meter tampering which on the one hand is good news.

But it's as you've said ericsbrother, he wants to backbill.

 

He did actually acknowledge that he did not realise the extent of the language barrier,

and perhaps he should've thought about asking for an interpreter

- I'm not sure how "I don't speak english" could've been interpreted

but it needed to be a constructive conversation and he did seem an ok guy.

 

We explained my father's background

(they live in a rough area, been burgled, hospitalised when youths threw fireworks into the property, constant vandalism) as to why he is a suspicious man and didn't feel comfortable with the man who wouldn't give any information about where he was from, taking photos and wanting to gain access to his property.

 

 

He explained that due to the nature of his job (Revenue Protection) they don't give out information about themselves.

I still don't understand though why there wasn't an official BG letter asking for access before a warrant was obtained.

 

BG man has said that there will be a bill generated for back to 2003.

Apparently this was the point where we specifically asked British Gas to supply the Takeaway.

 

 

I can only assume a letter came back then,

I was a teenager living at home and I probably ticked a box which asked whether the address had a business and didn't know to look any closer at it.

 

My priority at the minute is to get the gas supply back on as my parents don't have a working kitchen in the residential part house and relies on the kitchen in the takeaway.

 

 

Father is a poorly controlled diabetic and this is obviously not helping with how he's supposed to eat.

BG man has said that a significant proportion of the bill needs to be paid before reconnection.

I don't know what this bill will be as BG man is still calculating it.

 

Parents live hand to mouth as it is.

Business doesn't make much money but more or less enough for them to get buy so they can work (60+ hours a week) and not claim benefits.

They're sole traders so any debt will be to them personally.

I really don't know how they're going to afford this payment.

...obviously made worse by the fact its not quantified yet.

 

I've contacted citizens advice who have referred me to the Consumer Focus Extra Help Unit,

but I've been told it may be a few days before they get back to me.

 

In the meantime any advice would be greatly appreciated.

It feels to me that the system has failed them.

 

 

Its taken me two weeks, numerous phone calls etc to work out the situation.

They moved into the property all those years ago and rang utilities to tell them they're there.

 

 

They thought in they did what they should do in good faith.

Should they really bear so much of the responsibility?

I've looked at their bills - the meter they have been getting billed for, they've been paying crazy prices.

Clearly not sophisticated consumers at all.

 

Thanks all.

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If the other meter was unregistered they cannot backbill at all as who is entitled to the money?

Certainly not BGAS!

 

 

In addition, how has BGAS anything to do with the meter if it is not registered.

They are chancing their arm.

 

If it was registered to the property with BGAS as the supplier

the maximum they can backbill is 2 years and no more

 

 

however this does raise the question of why the bill was not pursued at an earlier stage.

First inquire when the meter was registered to BGAS and you need the exact date.

If only recently tell them to go suck eggs.

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Hi Surfer01,

 

The meter is defo not registered to anyone.

I was in the process of registering it with Eon (on advice of citizens advice to pick a company to register it)

- but only after we realised there was an additional meter when my father flagged up the

"strange man who came round and wanted to gain access to the electricity box".

 

 

It's in very early stages so I doubt the forms have even got anywhere.

I think officially it is still unregistered.

Unless BG seizing it made it their meter.

 

But I guess BG's argument is that the supply the whole of the address and because I ticked a box at some point telling them it was a business therefore they are entitled to bill for any gas that comes into the takeaway?

 

The ironic thing is that I do vaguely remember these letters and a conversation between my parents about VAT and that they should tell them we're a business because he knows that you're supposed to pay more VAT if its business gas and therefore it shouldn't be left as residential...

 

Part of me wonders whether they thought they were uncovering some elaborate meter tampering,

diverting gas stealing scheme and its actually just a couple of non english speakers who don't have a clue what's going on.

 

Apparently BG man said that it looks as if the pipes were in the process of being disconnected at one point but then never did.

(If they had we would've sorted this out sooner!)

 

 

Something about safety as well - maybe saying they are allowed to take the meter away for safety reasons??

Edited by Emily1234
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If the meter is unregistered then no one has been supplying it and BGAS cannot back date or assume supply.

They need a contract and permission of the landowner to register the meter to themselves.

They cannot assume to be the supplier of the unregistered meter.

 

 

If the meter is unregistered then how can there be meter tampering? End of story.

 

 

They are chancing their arm and had NO right to cut off the supply and your parents can claim compensation for any lost business due to BGAS cutting off the supply which did not belong to BGAS.

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If the meter is unregistered then no one has been supplying it and BGAS cannot back date or assume supply. They need a contract and permission of the landowner to register the meter to themselves. They cannot assume to be the supplier of the unregistered meter. If the meter is unregistered then how can there be meter tampering? End of story. They are chancing their arm and had NO right to cut off the supply and your parents can claim compensation for any lost business due to BGAS cutting off the supply which did not belong to BGAS.

 

Are you sure about this ?

As i thought that under the gas services act or whatever it was called to privitise the industry,

a default supplier was set up for each region.

 

 

For gas this was British Gas and under the legislation for a business supply they can backdate.

It was designed so that they did not lose in these situations.

 

Perhaps the Energy ombudsman or Business Debtline have information on this subject. The consequences are potentially huge, as they might lose their business.

 

Another Point, is whether British Gas had any responsibility for sorting this out earlier.

If they were asked to register the supply and issue bills which they never did,

then i can't see why they should backbill.

We could do with some help from you.

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yes as above.

 

 

being had here.

 

 

dx

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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BGAS are a supplier and not a distribution company and have never been a distribution company so would have no say in the matter anyway.

In other words all they do is send out bills.

They do not distribute power.

 

 

I think Centrico are the distribution company for gas. I am not sure how the areas were divided.

 

What happened in the past prior to privatisation was that the distribution company was requested to install a gas or electric connection on a new build as they were also the supplier.

 

 

They then "forgot" to get the metering and MPAN registered to the builder or the person that requested it in the first place.

This was fairly common BTW.

 

A supplier like BGAS cannot wander along and then decide to register a meter just because it is unregistered and if they do, then they can only charge from the point the MPAN and metering is registered as they or any other supplier cannot benefit from a mistake and make assumptions.

 

In this case as the MPAN is not registered,

so BGAS should not be able to back bill or if they can, as it is an error the most they can do is 2 years.

 

I can see this going to the Energy Ombudsman if the OP disputes any charges by BGAS.

I don't think BGAS will have a leg to stand on.

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If the meter is unregistered then no one has been supplying it and BGAS cannot back date or assume supply. They need a contract and permission of the landowner to register the meter to themselves. They cannot assume to be the supplier of the unregistered meter. If the meter is unregistered then how can there be meter tampering? End of story. They are chancing their arm and had NO right to cut off the supply and your parents can claim compensation for any lost business due to BGAS cutting off the supply which did not belong to BGAS.

 

Well I think the meter tampering thing started when they inspected the meter that everyone knows about and is registered to BG and the local youths must have been fiddling it but I don't think there's actually anything wrong with that meter. It has a low reading because my parents never turn on the heating.

 

I guess the main thing I need to ascertain is whether BG had a right to take a meter that wasn't registered to them (or anyone ) but is at an address that they supply. And if they supply that address could they bill for any meter that is at that address regardless of whether it is registered to them or not.

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This link contains a lot of useful information

 

https://www.businessjuice.co.uk/energy-guides/back-billing/

 

Beware they are a business that deals with helping switch suppliers for which they earn fees from companies they switch people to. Thought the link was worthwhile anyway.

We could do with some help from you.

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Just to clarify. Are there two meters at the address? One for the residence and another for the business and it is the business one that is not registered?

 

Yes - both meters at the same house number.

But one is located outside in front of the residential house (the registered meter)

and the other (unregistered meter) has been inside the takeaway boxed in near the electric meters.

 

Speaking to Eon last week they did say it was unusual but possible to have 2 meters at one address.

 

Also I heard the words "illegal meter" when the unregistered one was being referred to.

Presume that's why they can seize it?

Illegal meter sounds scarier than an unregistered meter...

 

Had a phone call from BG man

- the demand will be for tens of thousands and policy is "payment in full" before the gas can be reconnected.

 

 

We've asked him to look at the limitions policy and everything is still on nice speaking terms for now.

 

 

But surely it is not in BGs interest to try and bankrupt an individual who in good faith has been their customer for nearly 20 years???

 

BGAS are a supplier and not a distribution company and have never been a distribution company so would have no say in the matter anyway.

In other words all they do is send out bills.

They do not distribute power.

 

I think Centrico are the distribution company for gas. I am not sure how the areas were divided.

 

What happened in the past prior to privatisation was that the distribution company was requested to install a gas or electric connection on a new build as they were also the supplier.

 

They then "forgot" to get the metering and MPAN registered to the builder or the person that requested it in the first place.

This was fairly common BTW.

 

A supplier like BGAS cannot wander along and then decide to register a meter just because it is unregistered and if they do, then they can only charge from the point the MPAN and metering is registered as they or any other supplier cannot benefit from a mistake and make assumptions.

 

In this case as the MPAN is not registered,

so BGAS should not be able to back bill or if they can, as it is an error the most they can do is 2 years.

 

I can see this going to the Energy Ombudsman if the OP disputes any charges by BGAS.

I don't think BGAS will have a leg to stand on.

 

I agree that I'm probably going to have to take it to the ombudsman.

My issue right now though is they're holding the gas supply to the business hostage,

stopping my parents ability to earn and access to a working kitchen.

 

 

They're not going to be able to wait until this is resolved.

 

Also BG man seemed unaware of the backbilling legislation and asked us to send documents about it over.

 

 

I found that comment a bit strange.

If he goes around catching fraud and unbilled Gas surely he would know about these rules??

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Hi all,

 

Been speaking to citizens advice special help unit.

Although they are sympathetic and helping me to gather information I do feel there's an element of them trying to sell BGas story and point of view to me.

 

when Revenue Protection are involved it is serious.

Backbilling code won't apply because it's not BGs mistake with billing???!!

 

 

They are saying that it is an illegal connection which was disconnected and then turned back on.

Therefore all responsibility falls to my parents.

 

 

She said it would be highly unlikely they will be able to get the supply back on (to set my expectations)

and that the ombudsman don't get involved in cases of meter tampering/illegal connections

so would probably be a case where we would have to get solicitors involved.

 

My questions:

1. If BG are seeking to recover payment for estimated energy used from the date it was deemed we entered into an agreement with BG Business is that not back billing?

 

2. What is the difference between a shipperless and an "illegal" supply.

My parents did not get mr jimmy from the pub to go and hack the gas grid.

 

 

No one had any idea at all that there was a meter there until BG opened it up and physically took it.

It was never registered.

 

 

The pipes outside the property are proper gas pipes but BG claim it was disconnected and we've "illegally" reconnected it.

 

Is there a database of when pipes are disconnected?

Is it that unfeasible that they were supposed to disconnect it years ago and never did???

The takeaway has always had a gas supply.

 

This feels like it's going to be a slog of a fight.

We've also been billed for the pleasure of the time of Revenue Protection.

Edited by Emily1234
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Please be aware that CAB are volunteers and with something like this they are out of their depth.

 

 

Very recently I went to them for advice and if I had taken their advice, I would have been thousands of pounds out of pocket.

 

 

I joined "Which"legal and for the princely sum of £8 a month I get good free legal advice plus the magazine.

 

 

Ask BGAS to prove that the metering has been registered to them for several years.

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Agree, that the advice from CAB should not be taken as 100% fact.

 

It is possible that there was a gas supply at the business premises and this was cut off many years ago before the OP's parents took over the business.

This old disconnected supply may well have been owned by British Gas.

Someone has then come along and made the connection live again, never contacting anyone to register the supply.

 

I would certainly request proof from British Gas that any gas supply at the address is owned by them and that they are legally entitled to recover any sums for gas usage not paid for.

 

If BG provide this legal proof,

the next hurdle is for BG providing proof of the gas usage at the address and legal proof of how far back they can claim.

 

 

Even if any backbilling rules don't apply,

then surely statute of limitations kicks in,

meaning it is only usage over the last 6 years that applies.

 

 

If BG argue that limitation act does not apply,

because the gas supply was illegal i.e a criminal act,

then they would have to explain this.

 

 

The OP's parents should obtain qualified legal advice.

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you say the removed meter supplies their domestic kitchen, is that a separate kitchen to the business?

If so then the domestic back billing rule may well apply.

 

with reference to illegal meter that would depend on who and how it was connected and whether it has a code on the meter, the same as all supply meters would have.

 

 

In many places of multiple occupancy such as camp sites for example,

there is one supply meter and everyone then has their own meters that get their supply downstream of this and they pay the landowner for their use at a rate determined by any lease or rental agreement.

they are no means illegal.

Slotmeters in bedsits are another example.

 

If the meter was properly connected to the gas supply then you need to kick up a big fuss about the action of the BG man as there is no certainty he had any right to be on the premises.

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  • 2 weeks later...
hows it progressing?

 

Hello All,

 

Apologies for not getting back sooner. I didn't seem to have received the notification that a message has been posted.

 

things have gone from bad to worse and i am dumbfounded by the actions and tactics used by BG.

 

As was suggested citizens advice was not much help and we had to seek independent legal advice.

We were told to get an independent report from a gas professional addressing some of the accusations which we have done and should be getting this afternoon.

 

In the meantime we have logged a complaint with British Gas but it seems that Revenue Protection are almost a covert arm of BG and don't answer to the same people.

 

Emails are "not received" by the Revenue Protection Officer and any attempts to ask for information on the facts take time to come back.

 

Which would be fine had they not further escalated the situation by removing the domestic meter and informing us that they have applied for the gas to be disconnected from the mains which will involve digging the ground and pipes up??!!

 

When asked why they were being so heavy handed they said it's "policy".

 

- pay up in full or we will disconnect you forever and the costs will be so prohibitive to get reconnected you won't be able to get back on your feet.

We will add you to some blacklisted data base so no one will supply you again.

 

No you can't complain because we don't answer to the normal British Gas complaints team.

 

 

I will let you have details of our own complaints process but not until Monday.

You won't be able to put a complaint together or challenge any accusations because we'll have dug the ground up and stranded you forever.

 

I just do not understand how they can operate in such a way.

It's almost like some kind of money collection racket. Pay up or else!

 

Oh and when we asked why they took the domestic supply

- their reply was that they saw a gas engineer at the property and assumed we were trying to illegally reconnect supply?!

No - we were trying to get an opinion on all the things you've been saying that we've done because we don't understand gas like you do!

 

I guess their tactics are designed to make you feel like things are hopeless.

At the moment I certainly do feel as if we're being bullied and threatened and I can't see a way out.

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they never do dig the road up its all BS

 

and ofcourse it will cost them dearly to put it back when everything is found out to be their fault.

 

get the OMBs onboard and your local MP

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

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Also - the fact they knew we had a gas engineer out to examine the set up also suggests to me that they have been camped outside the premises watching them....how horrible is that?

 

Sorry - OMBs?

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