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Hi

- I have a smart meter through British Gas. 

I am a pay-as-you-go customer and have no debts on any of my utilities.  

 

Recently British Gas randomly accessed my smart meter and electronically/wirelessly loaded up a debt of nearly one thousand pounds to my meter. 

I had no notice of this happening and only knew about it because my 'smart' meter is in my sitting room and I saw it go off and on a few times. 

I checked the screens and found that a huge debit sum was suddenly showing on my account with a weekly amount to be taken towards it, or taken every time I top-up. 

 

Astonished I started making calls and sending emails - this was 3 months ago. 

Since then I have been told various things including "we found an old debt on one of your credit accounts from seven years ago (in 2012) and we are allowed to do this". 

 

I have no knowledge of having this debt and have asked for the evidence,

the serial numbers of the meter it relates to,

the data sheets from that meter and the old accounts issued by British Gas - to date - nothing. 

 

Incredible as this sounds I have to wonder who else is struggling with a simialr scenario and what rules exist here

- anyone who does have a genuine debt would surely be advised and if pursued further,

expect the usual right of defence through the courts and the regulatory bodies and reference to the limitations act.

 

Therefore, British Gas not only deny me those rihgts, but prevent me from moving my account because of said erroneous debt. 

 

Be warned before you allow a Company to control your account in this way -  I now have a very different view of what a SMART METER is.

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send them an sar.

 

you say 2012? 

 

anything outside of 6yrs is statute barred.


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Hi, yes I did that fairly quiclkly, but was then delayed as they said it wasn't valid without I.D. from me, which I then supplied, then they said they needed another 21 days, and today they said again that they need another 21 days due to technical diffficulties - huh.  It is going up to the Ombudsman and the I.C.O. but it is a very worrying thing.

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I suggest that you start off by sending them an SAR.   Come back here when you have more information


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Hi I have to agree you need to send a SAR to the energy provider

 

They are stating this is an old debt but when did they change your present meter that you had to this Smart Meter? (I assume this debt is with your old meter)

 

Do you still have have copies of your old meters statements before the Smart Meter was fitted?

 

Have a wee read of this Ofgem link:  https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/household-gas-and-electricity-guide/who-contact-if-its-difficult-paying-energy-bills/energy-backbilling-guide-your-rights

 

 

 

 

 

 


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It would be interesting what terms and conditions are noted in the British Gas Smart Meter contract in regard to adding old debt amounts.

 

If British Gas have included additional terms for Smart Meter contracts, that enable them to load old debts, then this should have been advised to consumers signing up to Smart Meters.  Do these additional terms try to get around backbilling and other rights of consumer ?

 

Have British Gas been sneaky ?

 

And if they are adding debts, will they also be remotely cutting off supplies to people who fall behind with bills ?


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If the meter was PAYG, and you have been with BG for at least the last 6 years, something smells if you have had no old debt to pay off over that period, definitely do as advised by DX and Bankfodder.  Its possible BG have attributes someone elsed debt to you with a wrong digit in the account number entered, the SAR should give you the info needed, but as a rule anything older than 6 years is SB.  Don't think they can unilaterally load a debt older than that onto a prepay meter.


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I can't imagine that the back billing rules could be circumvented in the way suggested.

If BG are trying to chase alleged debt in the face of the back billing rules then I would expect that they are breaking the rules. We certainly need to find out a lot more.


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It is very concerning BF, as they can load debt on any PAYG meter via the key or card next time a customer uses it to top up, as well as over the network to a Smart Meter.  Think we will have to wait until they have the SAR back, but I would have thought they wouldn't be daft enough to backl oad a debt in breach of the rules.  BG might have something hidden in T & Cs for prepay, as many  are fitted to recoup debt, and remain in a property when the occupier changes in most circumstances.  I have had to deal with issues when a new tenant in Social housing has difficulty with a utility getting the meter reset and the remaining debt from the old Tenant removed.


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Yes it is extremely concerning. Frankly it sounds quite newsworthy and I think I will put the word out to one or two contacts and see if anybody bites


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Yes, I see that a question has been asked as to whether this is a pay-as-you-go meter or simply a meter which monitors usage.

Also I have another question, is it possible for the supply to be cut off remotely with this technology?

 

Also it has to be pointed out that if the alleged historical debt is one which BG has already correctly build for and attempted to chase then it wouldn't be subject to back billing rules. The back billing rules, so far as I understand them, apply to energy usage more than 12 months old which has not been billed or has not been correctly billed.


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If the customer doesn't put money on the meter either by key or token, or online for a Smart meter, they will self disconnect as in gas or power off completely until they put the arrears amount and some to cover usage on, so reconnection might be more than some can afford. 

 

The Water utilities were smacked by the courts for their Fresh Start meters that cut water off in exactly the same way, they modified them so there was a trickle that would take an hour to fill a kettle when the money ran out.

 

Yes Back Billing is contentious with PAYG, but if the debt was "discovered" was for  more than 6 years previously, I think it puts the utility on shaky ground.  They will rely on a customer not knowing like a DCA relies on empty threats.


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Daily Mail article from Sept 2019

Smart meters are turning into debt collecting gadgets: Energy firms are making them 'pre-payment' remotely so customers have to buy credit before u

 

 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7504927/Smart-meters-turning-debt-collecting-gadgets-Energy-firms-making-pre-payment.html

 

Advice must be not to have a Smart Meter installed, unless you fully understand all of the issues with them.


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Yes big can of worms UB, a unilateral switch to prepay without a letter trail could be woeful for energyco's when Challenged, especially if a debt was suddenly found from say 8 years ago, and it turns out was previous occupiers debt.  I have that scenario often in my Ward with Tenants on an estate having utilities trying to recoup previous tenants debts when they occupy the house. Welsh Water used to be good at that telling them to just pay on the existing card for the water bill when faced with a fresh start meter, therefore inheriting a debt.  They have stopped that now.


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Hi - to answer points raised, and thanks to all responding -

 

I elected to have the smart meter, on the phone, no paperwork, it runs both gas and electric. 

The payg has been in place for over ten years since my ex left and I have kept with it so I don't get any bills. 

I did a SAR almost straight away frorm 8th Sept forward, no response and when chased they said they didn't have it,

 

I copied the request to them again, then they said it wasn't valid without I.D., how funny, no I.D. needed when sending the debt to the smart meter!  I complied and sent I.D.  after that they ran out time after further delays. 

 

Just written again asking for another 21 days.  If, and it's a big if,  I owe this money, which I have no recollection of at all, I want to see the facts and figures but still can't get these out of them. 

 

BG called me and I recall that person saying that it was their mistake, that they gave me a credit instead of a debit?? I know nothing about a credit either.  And, if this relates to an "old credit account"

 

- let me see the bills that prove that there was this debt.

Otherwsie they are saying that I have been in ignorance all these years and that is my fault, that can't be right. 

So annoying and frustrating - I could scream.

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So its SB if there ever was a debt and its unlikely there was. BG might well be digging a hole for themselves.  have they removed the debt now, or told you what rate they expect to recoup it at if they haven't?


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Hi brassnecked, if only, no I am afraid that they have not removed it. 

It is my understanding that is being collected at £3.00, weekly, daily: no idea.  

It doesn't seem possible to check that information on the screen of the 'smart' meter. 

 

I also had an email from British Gas recently saying that they had reduced the amount: oh so nice of them, thinking this will appease me I suppose.  I don't want a reduction of something that I don't owe.

 

I have seen some articles etc about people struggling over previous occupiers debts etc and it is astonishing that this is still such a mess - can walk on the moon but cannot bill people properly.

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You say that somebody called you and told you that it was a credit, not a debt. When did this happen please?

On the question of the SAR, you are clearly being given the runaround. Would you like to take control of this and begin some solid action?


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Agree with BankFodder time for you to take control and start demanding information, and copies of old bills, the SAR should provide that whether anything more than 6 years old will be forthcoming is moot, as if you have always been with them for last 10 years or so, ant excuses might mean they have attributed someone else's debt to you possibly.  BanikFodder  should  give you some ways to deal with them and suggest what actions will be most effective.


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hi - yes but what to do - I am so busy trying to run round different computers as I work from home and I don't have time to do the paperwork needed.  I am thinking I should go to court as BG are happy for me to wait forever and, no offence to them, but the Ombudsman take such a long time, I don't think it is fair for me to do the suffering and have the costs involved etiher.  I am a lone parent and on a register for needs in terms of health so this is the last thing I need right now.

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You have an answer the question about the telephone call.

Yes, I have in mind a county court action against BG for their failure to provide you with information in response to your statutory request. It would be straightforward to do and very little risk to yourself. I can imagine that it would energise them.


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Hi - I have two phone conversations now with this Company and I am not happy doing things on the phone as there is no proper record.  They have moved the goalposts.  I notice they have changed the dates they first said it was from by one year.... in an email to me.  Cannot rely on any random email as evidence, that is imply not good enough for a court.

 

I really need the data and I am concerned that it will be 'created'.  I tust the ICO should be able to get this out of them and then I can move on it.  If I move to court immediately to have the debt removed, unless shown as legitimate, and redress made for time wasted?

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You haven't told us when you have had these conversations but I'm gathering that it is pretty recent. So that brings me to ask whether you have recorded the calls – because you have been here since 2007 and our customer services guide has been available since almost that time.

If you are recording the calls then you would have lots of good evidence that could be useful later on.
I'm now going to assume that you haven't been recording your calls so I would advise you to read our customer services guide and implement the advice there before you have any further phone calls. This really is an important step. By now you realise that you're dealing with a corporate bully that ignores all the usual rules and thinks it can get away with anything – and very often it does.
If you want to take control of this then you will have to do start looking after yourself and also taking our advice. Read our customer services guide.

I'm afraid that the ICO will do almost nothing. Before GDPR you got a reasonable turnaround in response to ICO complaints. But since GDPR, it can take as long as three months even just to get a reference number for your complaint and very often you won't hear anything at all. GDPR has produced a huge flood of people who suddenly have become slightly more aware of their rights and so bombard the ICO with their requests and their complaints. The ICO however has received hardly any extra funding – if any – and it can't cope.

By all means you should write a letter of complaint to the ICO but that is not the way forward I'm afraid. The only way to get BG to start moving themselves is to begin a county court action against them. Although strictly speaking you should bring what is called a "part 8" claim for a finding that they have breached their statutory duty and in order for them to produce the disclosure, this is long winded and also risks costs if you lose (which is most unlikely). An easier way forward is simply to bring a small claim for a very modest amount of money, say, £50 on the basis that this is the damage that you have suffered as a result of their statutory breach.

This will put it into the County Court arena and will concentrate the minds of British Gas. For such a small sum they will want to put their hands up but this is where you will refuse and you will insist on going to court. You are entitled to do this without any prejudice to yourself if you have good reason to continue the claim in the face of a proposed settlement. Because you are dealing with a breach of statutory duty, if they have still not remedied the breach by the time they make their settlement offer then this would give you good reason to continue.

However, I suspect that once they receive the court papers, they would soon fess up the data you are looking for and also pay the money you are seeking plus your court fee. There is a risk of course that you would lose – but in my view it's very low risk. It will also do you good and also British Gas good to see you are setting yourself.

It's up to you

 

By the way, I don't know where you get this idea that their emails are not good evidence in court. They certainly are


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I'm sorry but I think it's rather "innocent" to imagine that you will necessarily get call recordings from BG – even if they might be obliged to supply them to you. Also, you are being led by the nose by BG and we have suggested that you need to take control and you seem to agree this. Yet immediately you hand control back to BG by saying that you are going to rely on their call recordings.
You have to start dealing with this in an assertive way and that means that you must start recording your calls. Read our customer services guide.

I would fully expect that part of the stress that you are suffering is because you are not in control of the situation. If you start taking measures such as recording your calls and storing them away safely, you will start to own the problem and as you start to control events, I would expect that that would help to reduce the amount of stress. Of course we will be helping you all the way – but you have to help yourself. Please don't rely on BG at all for anything. Don't rely on their promises. Don't rely on their data storage systems. Don't rely on their duties to supply you with call recordings. The only person you can rely upon is yourself – and hopefully you can rely on us to a great extent – but mainly on yourself.

Yes the statutory breach is the failure to comply with the SAR. It would cost you £25 fee – which you will probably get back as you will probably win. If BG were stupid enough to want to go to a hearing on this then I'm afraid you would pay the hearing fee which might be £80 or £100 – I can't remember. The likelihood is that once they had understood what was happening to them, that they would make the disclosure you want and also in order to stop the embarrassment and also the expense and inconvenience of trying to defend this simply for £50, it is most likely that they would pay your £50 and the claim fee – but obviously, we can't guarantee this. However what I'm suggesting is that you take up this tactic in order to force the disclosure. As I have said, if you go to the ICO it will take months at the very least. It's hopeless. If you go to the ombudsman, that will also take months and you really can't be sure of any kind of result. They are weak and limp wristed.

I'm surprised that the meter has no serial number. Certainly all the old mechanical ones had serial numbers. I don't know what you are entitled to expect with a "smart" meter


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hi

try these - the actual meter outside the house, which has no numbers on it, and the smart meter debt owing screen  (early Sept), which I now see shows the repayment rate on it.  (One question answered). 

 

I found the S/N in the menus for the smart meter screen but cannot know if this relates to the meter outside, being blank.

 

There is a Pan I.D. screen with a number, then next row it says: Parent: 0000.

 

I have been trying to research more and found this document, front title cover only attached as it is 66 pages. 

Within it talks about uploading debt remotely which appears to be allowed, although it does not refer to dates, it says "at anytime" - but I would have thought that no contract can override an existing law e.g. statute of limitations. 

 

People should be aware that providers do have the right to upload debt remotely, no mention of whether it has to be proven debt?  Horrendous.

 

I actually do not know the dates just approximately but as BG say they record their calls, they can include that in their data compliance. 

 

One was about two weeks ago and the other was over a month ago.

 

On both occasions they were reading out information which I asked them to send to me since they clearly had it in front of them. 

 

I don't know why they won't send it. 

 

I have so much stress in my life already with other things going on that I haven't been able to appply my full attention to this matter.

 

I would have to pay £25 to make the claim by the look of it - if done online. 

I will seriously consider this but cannot budget in that fee for about a week.

The statutory breach being the failure to comply with the SAR?

 

something else I noted is that none of my statements of usage mention a debt, none of the data sheets you can download for top ups mention a debt, even after they did this. 

 

I cannot access the accounts on their website now and the meter itself appears to have no serial number. 

Pics attached. (I suppose all that is irrelevant, I need to take more action as you say)

 

 

 

British_Gas_account.pdf Pages from 20121214-product-requirements-smart-metering-systemspdf.pdf pix.pdf

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