Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Experts have issued some advice for customers that are receiving letters from British Gas demanding payment. Back in February, customers of British Gas complained about “something fishy going on” with the energy and home services provider.
There were multiple complaints of overcharging, and the app not working properly. Now however, customers are saying they have been receiving letters demanding payment for a period when they didn’t even live in the property.
Lauren Cockram tweeted: “Just received a letter from BW Legal demanding money I apparently owe. Not only did I move out before the period in question. I was never named on the British Gas account when I did live there. Such a distressing situation.”
Here’s what Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Experts had to say:
Don’t ignore letters
Don’t do anything with the letters and it could have an impact on your credit score. If your credit report is marked with outstanding debts, it may affect your ability to take out credit in future.
If you’re struggling to pay any debts you do owe, contact charity Citizens Advice for one-to-one help.
If you don’t owe the money, tell the legal firm
First, you should contact the firm in question if you don’t owe the money.
In this example (British Gas), you can contact BW Legal on 0113 487 0430 or by emailing email@example.com. You can also get in touch via its webchat service at www.bwlegal.co.uk.
You may need to provide proof, such as letters confirming when you lived at the property, and, if you held an account with the energy firm, proof from it that you don’t owe any debt, or documents showing you were a customer at a different firm at the time.
Based on case studies and the reports seen, this does usually then lead to BW Legal closing the case. However, if it continues to ask for payment, there are further steps you can take – for more info on this, see below.
Still being asked to pay despite the debts not being yours? Take your complaint further
If you’ve proven you don’t owe the money, yet the debt collector continues to ask for it, you have a number of options depending on whether the firm is regulated or a member of a trade body. BW Legal, for example, is listed on the registers of the Credit Services’ Association, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA). PRAC Financial is also on the FCA register.
If you want help with your specific complaint – for example, a mark taken off your credit file, or compensation – you can try the following:
- Complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if the firm is registered with the FCA. It can make firms take action to resolve your complaint, such as correcting your record or forcing the firm to pay you compensation. You can take complaints to the ombudsman if you don’t get a response within eight weeks of complaining to the firm, or if you’re unhappy with the firm’s response. BW Legal is FCA-registered so you can take a complaint to the FOS.
- You can also take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if the debt collection agency is regulated by a trade body. It can order firms to make things right if it finds poor service, and can award compensation of up to £50,000. BW Legal is regulated by the trade body the Credit Services’ Association (CSA), so you can take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
Have you had issues with British Gas? Let us know in the comments
If you don’t want complaint-specific help, but you want to raise awareness of general problems with a firm, you can try the following:
- Submit a complaint to the CSA if the firm is registered with it. The CSA can consider whether its code of practice has been breached and intervene if it has. BW Legal is a member of the CSA, so you can take your complaint to it.
- Complain to the SRA if the firm is regulated by it. The SRA can take disciplinary action against firms if it finds any evidence of misconduct and can fine individuals and firms. BW Legal is regulated by the SRA, so you can take your complaint to it.
- Take your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It can investigate any firm, including BW Legal, which uses the personal data of UK residents, and can issue fines if it finds evidence of wrongdoing. It can also force firms to delete data held on UK residents.
- If a company doesn’t have a regulator or trade body, you can complain to your local Trading Standards under UK consumer rights laws. It can investigate and take businesses to court to stop them operating.