A Britsh Gas customer is celebrating a successful end to a 12-year battle with the firm which attempted to charge him £80,000 he did not owe.
Roger Patrick, 74, who is better known to friends as Bo Patrick, ran the community sports and social facilities at Burton Park Country Club, home to Burton Park Wanderers FC, until 2010.
All was well until British Gas changed the gas meter in 2000. In 2002, Mr Patrick noticed the electricity charges seemed high and although British Gas amended them, they still tried to recover payment for more than twice the amount the club was using.
Mr Patrick said: “As well as the errors with the electricity they tried to charge me for units of gas that I had never used. They went three years without visiting and just kept sending very high estimated bills.I was being charged for tens of thousands of units that I had never used.”
Mr Patrick made a partially successful complaint to the Ombudsman in 2011.
He added: “The Ombudsman never really understood.
“He made a partially helpful decision in November 2011, but even then British Gas did not do all that he had asked.”
Matters came to a head when British Gas instructed debt recovery agents for the alleged debt of £72,337.57 and in late 2012, with nowhere else to turn Mr Patrick instructed Kevin Rogers, a partner in Wilson Browne Solicitors.
Mr Rogers said: “Mr Patrick is a pillar of the local community, having been a fantastic supporter of grass roots football and social activities for decades.
“I was able to contact the magistrates’ court and stopped the enforcement. We advised that on this occasion actual legal proceedings against British Gas should be seen as a costly last resort.
“That being said, it took a year of patient negotiation to finally get the case in to the right hands within British Gas. I have to say that when we did, the case was brought to an end rather quickly.”
The bill has been wiped but during the negotiations, the amount allegedly owed spiralled to more than £80,000.
Mr Patrick said he incurred a number of costs during the proceedings, including money lost when he closed the club, but he does not intend to pursue British Gas in a civil case as he has suffered ill health in the past two years.
Katie Alloway, spokesman for British Gas, apologised to Mr Patrick for the issue with his bills.
She added: “We make every effort to resolve complaints swiftly for our customers.
“In this case there were a number of issues on his account dating back to 1999, which resulted in estimated or incorrect bills. We worked to resolve this, but were unable for a number of years to access the property to read the gas and electricity meters.
“We take the outcome of any ombudsman complaint very seriously and implemented all remedies in 2011 to help reduce Mr Patrick’s bill.
“We have now put in place a suitable payment arrangement with the current account holder for Burton Park Wanderers FC and agreed to write off the remaining balance left for Mr Patrick to pay as a gesture of goodwill in recognition of his circumstances.”