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Freezing for weeks courtesy British Gas

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Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 08 February, 2006 - 11:58 am:   

Anyone else feel swindled by British Gas? Is it a problem with the local engineers?
I have complained numerous times to British Gas over the last couple of weeks concerning a litany of failures and have heard nothing back. I feel confident I will hear nothing back concerning this note I sent them today:

We have had Homecare 400 since last year (£24.50 pcm for 24-hour service). On 23 January we reported our boiler was intermittently failing. 11 days later on 25 January an engineer took a look at it and said he could see nothing wrong, left it on test and said he would return a week later. He did not return.
Then, on the evening of Friday 3 Feb the boiler predictably broke down altogether. I rang and reported it and was told an engineer would be around between 8am and 6pm. I duly waited. No engineer arrived. I rang and was told they had meant Sunday not Saturday.
Sunday afternoon he finally arrived, tested the boiler and said it would need a part, booked an appointment for Tuesday and left, leaving us in the meantime with no heating or hot water.
I learned today (Wednesday 8) that his or a colleague’s notes say an engineer does not need the part in order to make the boiler work, suggesting a temporary fix could have been implemented. If this is true why then did he leave us on Sunday after two days without heat or hot water? He could see we have a one year old baby.
One reason may be his diagnostics computer program was producing results in Italian (as I heard him tell his mate over his mobile).
I had to take Tuesday (yesterday) off work. No engineer turned up and mid-afternoon we rang to be told the part was not available and they did not know when it would be fixed. Finally we were told it would arrive Friday 10 Jan, but would not be fitted that day. I asked customer service if it could be fixed Saturday or at least Sunday and was told I could have no such guarantee – even though we will have been without hot water or heating for well over a week by then.
The entire customer services people we have spoken to claim to have no idea why any of this has happened nor when the problem will be fixed.
How can they reconcile our ongoing experience with the following statement that persuaded us to buy Homecare 400 in the first place, by Mark Clare, British Gas Managing Director:
"House and British Gas always aim to offer an exceptional level of customer service, and we would like to know about any instances where our service has not been satisfactory. We are committed to resolving your problem as soon as possible."
This is fiction is it not? They should cease claiming it and reimburse those of us who fell for it in the first place. It is extremely inconvenient for me to take time off work as an editor on deadline. In addition to waiting in for two whole days at the weekend for an engineer, in addition to going nearly a week without heating or hot water, in addition to having to buy two electric heaters – one for downstairs, one for the baby’s room – in addition to repeated requests for information as to when a fix can be implemented - we are paying the organisation £24 odd a month for a 24 hour service.
It is going to be minus 2 tonight.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 08 February, 2006 - 02:26 pm:   

Contact the Times newspaper as they have an excellent section which chases these complaints down - highlighting them in the national press at the same time. Seem to have a good success rate - must be the threat of some nasty PR.
Joined 19-05-2004
Posted on Wednesday, 08 February, 2006 - 06:11 pm:   

You can get 24 hour emergency cover with a number of organisation, for under £100 covering heating and water, lost keys, blocked drains etc (household emergencies) eg 2 hours of time and £500 materials. Often this can be part of a household insurance policy.

British Gas engineers do seem to have a bad reputation. The one a few years ago was saying that your boiler could not be repaired but that they had a special offer on, including a free flush of your heating system. They never gave the free flush and the combi failed after 7 years. There were articles in the press saying that they were condeming boilers that were still servicable.
I don't know what your system is - older ones are less efficient but tend to be very reliable and easy to fix. Modern ones tend to be the opposite. If it is less than five years old you still have your statutory rights (sale of goods act for the product and goods and services for the fixing) but they can be difficult to get any joy (a warranty is in addition to statutory rights but there is an awful lot of confusion!). In any case you should complain to British Gas and also contact Lewisham Trading Standards.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 08 February, 2006 - 10:37 pm:   

I have to say our main problems were always with the call centre not processing the call correctly or making appointments for the wrong day, I have found the engineers themselves pretty sound, apart from a series of events a few years ago which indicated a lack of brain power.Our boiler is fairly old. The system kept breaking down, and when they repaired it ( 9 times in one year) they left notes to the effect that the pressure had dropped and they had to adjust it manually. Of course, the main reason water pressure drops is usually due to a leak on the pipework somewhere. It turned out that we had a leak on a hallway radiator valve which had been discharging water into our basement for over a year. If only we had looked closely we would have noticed the brown water stain on the pipe. I assumed that they would have checked for the source of a leak and repaired it. Apparently not. It all came to a head one night (literally) when I decided to adjust the pressure myself after they would not come out for three days in freezing temperatures. A marginal change in pressure blew off one of the radiator caps which was faulty and hence the source of the leak so boiling hot water was spraying everywhere until we managed to locate the stop cock. This could have been disastrous if we have been burned or lived in an upstairs flat rather than a house. They should have checked this out, and as far as I am concerned they had a duty of care at to raise it at least. As it was we had emergency plumbing cover with British Gas and they came out at 2am in the morning to fix it as a priority call.

Fortunately they are still servicing our boiler which is now 16 years old. Despite their faults I can't see any alternative, except perhaps the homecare packages run by other companies, such as EDF, First Direct, etc so I'd be interested to hear how people find them.
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 09 February, 2006 - 12:29 am:   

Thank you for all your support. Our boiler is about 5 years old. Both me and my husband have been showering at work. Our baby has had baths with a combination of boiled water from the kettle and the cold tap. We sent complaints to the Times, Watchdog and EnergyWatch.

It is amazing how you can take such a small thing, like a hot shower, for granted.

Yours in extra duvets, Liz
Joined 19-05-2004
Posted on Thursday, 09 February, 2006 - 05:54 pm:   

Liz, your boiler is five years old? It should not break down within five years. If it is a technical failure then they should be repairing it FOC and in your case compensation should be given. Probably used up all my favours with consumer lawyers but as you can tell I get so angry over this sort of thing! County Court Action is not that difficult but British Gas should settle before it got to that stage. as you can tell I've gone through the courts before!

Reminds me of when we moved into the posh estate. We had no hot water - fortunately it was summer but it wasn't clever having a three week old baby. Previous owners denied any knowledge (I hope you are reading this Mr High Hopes!) Now there is my indentity given away!

Happy to advise off line (through webmaster?)
Joined 18-04-2005
Posted on Friday, 10 February, 2006 - 02:51 pm:   

We seem to depend to much on modern conveniences. If cold put more clothes on as first option . No wonder we are short of energy
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Saturday, 11 February, 2006 - 02:44 pm:   

The heat and hot water is back on. BaggyDave, will let you know if I need your advice. Thank you for the offer. We are trying a course of action, suggested by my boss, to wrestle some compensation out of BG this week. Will let you know if it works.

As for you Brian, you should try living in an old Victoria terrace without heat or hot water for a week, which saw -2 C temp., before you get all 'friends of the earth'
Joined 18-04-2005
Posted on Sunday, 12 February, 2006 - 03:46 pm:   

Hi Elizabeth
Point taken and my remarks were a bit tounge in cheek.
I do live in a Victorian House without central heating but do I agree have access to hot water. I hope you are OK now
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 13 February, 2006 - 12:43 pm:   

Had a sense of humour failure last week. I think it was frozen. Much better now.
Joined 13-02-2006
Posted on Monday, 13 February, 2006 - 04:47 pm:   

Dear Readers - SE23.Com

I have seen the recent complaints on your website regarding British Gas. If any local resident has a complaint regarding the standard of service they have experienced, I would like to take the opportunity of helping in order to get the issues resolved. I am the HQ Customer Relations Manager for British Gas Services and will ensure that your enquiry is investigated and brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Please contact me at the address below with a contact name, full address and telephone number.

Kind Regards,

Matt Beasley
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 17 February, 2006 - 10:49 am:   

Glad to see that British Gas cares enough to read a South London neighborhood web forum. We received a call from BG customer services yesterday (a message left on the home phone, either though I told CS at BG that my husband and I work during the day and offered my mobile number)

We have sent our details to your email posted above. We have also contacted Mark Clare directly.

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