British Gas (The Saga So Far)

On January 26th, I sent the following to Mark Hodges, The CEO of British Gas.

“I rent out my flat. The flat had a reliable boiler (regularly serviced and working fine) which, since 1992, had been insured with British Gas Homecare.

In mid January, it failed the Gas Safety certificate due to high emissions. British Gas advised that it was an issue with the flue but that flues were not covered by my policy. I checked though and flues actually were covered if under 1 metre in length. This flue was under 1 metre in length.

I shared the good news with British Gas who then advised that the relevant flue for my boiler was an obsolete part and I would therefore have to buy a new boiler.

Using the boiler’s GC number, I did some research and was able to source a new part.

I let British Gas know but they were less optimistic than I’d expected.

Unless the parts came from a “British Gas approved supplier” they would not be able to fit it. I checked and, fortunately, the company was an approved British Gas supplier and British Gas had an active account with them.

Next, British Gas told me that scaffolding was not covered by my insurance (my flat is on the 2nd floor) so I would need to arrange that myself.

I got some quotes for scaffolding and then, in the unlikely event that British Gas had misinformed me, I checked my policy. Surprisingly, scaffolding was not listed as an exclusion. I had paid for that too.

I called again (as usual, was kept on hold for no less than 20 minutes) and shared the positive news. The agent said she would arrange for the engineer who had visited my flat to call me.

Next day, the engineer called. The concern now (this was being relayed from his supervisor, he said) was that, even if I did provide scaffolding, it was a “health and safety” issue. Regrettably, British Gas would not be able to do the work on these grounds. Whether the policy covered me really wasn’t the issue after all.

I asked how they would overcome the health and safety challenge if I bought the new boiler they were so keen to sell me and was assured that Health & Safety would absolutely not be a barrier to a new installation. If It was a new installation I wanted, they would risk life and limb to get the job done.

I relayed all of the above to British Gas and, on Tuesday Jan 15th, spoke with, John Kerr, a member of their Resolutions team. He said he would arrange for the engineer’s team leader to contact me and that, if the problem had not been resolved by Thursday evening (Jan 19th), I should then call him again.

I spoke with the senior engineer (Chris) on Wed, Jan 18th who agreed that the policy I had been paying into for half my life did indeed cover the necessary work. BUT I would need to purchase the flue kit myself from their approved supplier (British Gas would later reimburse me providing they were able to complete the job). Furthermore, the scaffolding costs would only be covered up to £1000 (plus the scaffolding would have to be done by British Gas approved scaffolders).

My own scaffolding research indicated a likely cost of around £350 but – before I ordered the new flue parts – I obviously needed to know how much British Gas’s own scaffolders were going to charge. Would I be left with an excess? I also wanted to know where on my policy it mentioned a cap of £1000 on scaffolding as I could not find that reference.

I left 2 messages with the senior engineer (Chris) requesting the above and, 5 days later, he had not replied to either message (or picked up on the 2 other occasions I called).

On Thursday Jan 19th, as arranged, I called John Kerr at the Resolutions’ team and was told it was his day off. I emailed him the following morning and, as of today (Feb 1st) have not heard back from him.

Meanwhile, the comfort & safety of my tenants was being compromised and I needed a valid Landlord’s Gas Safety Certificate.

Given the cavalcade of misinformation from British Gas, the constant problems with communication and my legal obligations, on Jan 30 I arranged for an Independent Gas Safety Installer to fit a replacement boiler and flue. Potentially, I could have employed him to switch the old flue over instead but (a) That would be a violation of my policy with British Gas (all work needed to be carried out by them for my policy to remain valid) and (b) I only had the diagnosis of British Gas that it was the flue that needed to be replaced anyway.

Since I took out their Home Care policy, I have paid British Gas well over £10,000, never missed a payment and my flat remains exactly the same distance from the ground as it was when they took my first payment in exchange for their cover in the early 90’s.

Whilst the new boiler was being fitted, Senior engineer Chris finally left a message with a quote for the scaffolding (£500). The parts, scaffolding and labour would therefore have cost around £1000 and my policy covered that work. However, as I could not continue to rent out my flat with a non – compliant boiler, I was left with no choice but to make alternative arrangements.

On Jan 30th, I called John Kerr and was assured he would call me back within the hour. He didn’t.

On Jan 31st, I called John Kerr again and was told that he didn’t deal directly with these kinds of customer issues but that my case with a new handler. I was promised she would be calling me that afternoon. Unsurprisingly, she did not call either.

One other interesting note.

The old flue was taken out and the new flue put in entirely from inside the flat by a single installer. There was absolutely no need for any scaffolding or even a ladder.

Is there another realistic option other than to pursue British Gas for breach of contract, negligence, the new boiler and installation costs plus the time & stress their systematic obfuscation has caused?

I know most people who threaten court action do not follow through, get worn down by bureaucracy disguised as complaints’ management and eventually give up. The tried and tested corporate system of misinformation, delayed communication and using “resolution / customer relations” personnel to obfuscate rather than resolve are effective and proven.

I am sending this account of my experiences to John Kerr and copying in Mark Hodges (CEO) today on Feb 1st , 2019 and do so with a genuine hope that a satisfactory resolution will be delivered within 7 days. Failing a resolution by Feb 8th 2019, I intend to initiate court proceedings for breach of contract along with the damages and losses I have outlined here.”

 

On Feb 6th 2019, I received this reply:

 

Dear Mr Sanders

Thank you for your telephone call on 18 January 2019 concerning your HomeCare Policy with British Gas Services Limited.  Please accept my apologies that the level of service you have experienced was not to the standard you were expecting.

 

Your Complaint and Outcome

 

You raised concerns following a visit from our engineer, you have informed us that our engineer advised that your appliance required a replacement flue however we could not source this part.  You have advised that the part is still available therefore requested we return to complete the repair.

 

As your complaint is of a technical nature your details were passed to our Service Manager, Christopher Gunn, for further investigation.  I have detailed his findings below.

 

My Investigation

 

Following your complaint being logged on our systems you sent an email to my colleague, John Kerr, detailing your complaint further.  In this email you advised that you rent out your flat and the boiler had been regularly serviced and had been reliable for a number of years.

 

During the safety inspection in mid-January the boiler failed due to high emissions which was found to be an issue with the flue which was not covered.  Having checked your cover you found that any flue under 1 metre in length was included in the cover.

 

You confirmed this with British Gas and it was confirmed that the flue for your boiler was obsolete.  Following this discussion, you confirmed that you had been able to source the new part, it was confirmed that the part must be supplied by a British Gas approved supplier before we would be able to install the flue.

 

After sourcing the flue, you were advised that we would not cover the scaffolding which would be required to fit the flue and you would have to be arranged through a third party.  You received some quotes and contacted us again to discuss whether this was an actual exclusion in the policy as it was not noted in the terms and conditions.

 

Following this enquiry, our engineer contacted you and explained that there was a potential Health and Safety concern and as a result we could not fit the flue even where scaffolding had been provided.

 

You questioned how this would change in the event that you purchased a new boiler from British Gas and were advised that this would not create a problem in the event a new boiler was to be installed.

 

You later spoke with a senior engineer who confirmed that the work would be covered but the flue would need to be purchased yourself and if the part was correct then we would reimburse the costs of this.  In addition, we would reimburse the costs of scaffolding up to a total of £1000.00.  You again questioned if this was mentioned in the terms of the policy you hold.

You have advised that you left messages for the senior engineer but had not received any response to these messages after 5 days.  Due to the delays encountered you confirmed that on 30 January 2019 you had arranged for a third party to replace the boiler and flue.

 

It was confirmed that you could have requested that the flue be replaced to complete a repair however, this would be a violation of your policy with British Gas as all work needed to be carried out by British Gas in order for the policy to remain valid and also, that you only had the British Gas diagnosis of the fault.

 

You confirmed that while the new boiler was being installed, our senior engineer had contacted you and left a message advising that the scaffolding would cost approximately £500.00.  However, you were unable to continue to rent out the flat without a compliant boiler and so felt you had no choice but to make alternative arrangements.

 

In addition to the above points, you have stated that the third party were able to install the new flue from inside the flat and there was no requirement for scaffolding during this installation.

 

Due to all of the points above, and also a lack of communication following your calls to our office looking for an update on the complaint, you intend to initiate court proceedings should we fail to provide an appropriate resolution to this matter by 8 February 2019.

 

Following his receipt of your complaint, our Service Manager, Christopher Gunn, had checked with our parts department and verified that the parts required were obsolete.  Christopher noted that you had sourced this part at PHC Parts in Bristol.  Christopher contacted this supplier and was told that the part was available however, this appeared to be linked to a flue kit which would be sold along with the boiler and was not available to purchase separately.

 

Christopher also checked the approximate cost of providing scaffolding in order to gain access to the flue in order to complete the replacement in the event that the flue was supplied.

It was confirmed that there were some concerns with the part in question and how this would be purchased as the manufacturer had deemed the part to be obsolete, in addition we had been told that the part was included in the purchase of a boiler and not available as a separate purchase.  We confirmed that, in the event that you purchased the flue, we would reimburse the cost of this particular part and the postage incurred.  We also verified that this part would need to be inspected before we would make arrangements to fit it to the appliance.

 

Christopher spoke with you and advised that due to the age of the appliance and the flue being confirmed as obsolete, we would not be liable for the replacement of the appliance.  However, if the flue was purchased and found to be correct then we would arrange for the scaffolding to replace this part and reimburse the costs.

 

Christopher also confirmed that he had contacted a scaffolder he had used previously but his call was not returned which resulted in some delays.  Christopher contacted the scaffolder again and after receiving a quote contacted you and left a message.

 

At this time it was confirmed that a message had been left stating that it was too late for the scaffolding as you had arranged for the boiler to be replaced.  Christopher once again reiterated that we were not liable for the replacement of the appliance.

 

My Conclusion

 

It is agreed that when this issue was initially highlighted the communication was incorrect, we do provide cover for room sealed flues up to 1 metre in length.  There were also some delays encountered during your contact with British Gas Customer Relations and also when calling our Service Manager Christopher.

 

With regards to your calls to customer relations, we do aim to respond at the earliest opportunity however, this can be affected by our workload and some cases may require more investigation before we are in a position to provide an adequate response or update.

 

In addition there were claims that there was a lack of calls from our Service Manager when you had called for information or updates.  I can confirm that our Service Managers deal with a number of issues as they manage a large team of engineers and also must commute between sites to work with their teams.

 

Our company policy states that no member of staff can make phone calls while driving therefore any contact must be done when they are stationary, although calls may not have been returned immediately, Christopher has made contact within reasonable timeframes and kept you updated where there was information available.

 

In regard to the flue replacement, we had been informed by the manufacturer that this part was obsolete however, given that you had confirmed that you had sourced a replacement we had agreed to fit this on the condition the part was correct and there were no concerns with the integrity of the part.  As we do not directly manufacture the parts for the appliance we are at the mercy of the manufacturer and our suppliers, this is out with our control and so we cannot accept any liability for the availability or potential issues with parts which are obtained through alternate methods.

 

Once again, it is agreed that there was some conflicting information regarding the scaffolding and how this would be arranged, I can confirm that the policy does contain a section for gaining access whereby we would cover any costs of gaining access to the appliance up to a total cost of £1000.00.  It was later agreed that we would arrange for the scaffolding to be put in place through a local scaffolder that we have used previously once the part had been made available.

 

There was mention of the flue causing a potential health and safety risk, I can confirm that all of our engineers must complete a risk assessment before completing any work however, there was no indication that the flue would not be fitted as we did not have the opportunity to begin work as the flue was never provided to us in order to make the arrangements for the scaffolding to be put in place and our engineer attend to begin work.  Therefore, we cannot provide any specific comment on this section as it is a hypothetical situation.

 

In regard to the points related to the potential of a new boiler being fitted, this would not necessarily have required scaffolding as the boiler and flue would be replaced in their entirety therefore access from inside the property would have been sufficient, as evidenced by your third party.  When replacing a boiler and flue the old appliance can be removed which results in access to the flue being available from a position that is not available when simply replacing the flue on its own.

 

In your email, you state that if you had allowed the third party to replace the flue then this would have been a violation of your policy as all work had to be done by British Gas in order for your policy to remain valid.  I can confirm that this is incorrect, at no time do we state that we will invalidate the policy where a third party works on any appliance.

 

We will inspect any work which is completed by a third party to ensure that it is correct and safe but we do not refuse to cover any aspect of the policy where a third party has been employed to complete remedial work.  Had the third party replaced the flue and this work was completed safely and efficiently then the policy would have continued unaffected.

 

You also state that you only had the British Gas diagnosis of the fault.  Should there have been any concerns with our diagnosis of the flue then a second opinion could have been requested at any time, either by requesting another engineer visit or by asking our Service Manager, Christopher, for another inspection to be completed during your conversations with him.  We have no record of any such request being made and therefore have no concerns regarding our diagnosis of the fault which we identified.

 

Although I do agree that there have been some issues with the communication during this complaint, we have made contact within reasonable timeframes and where there has been information to discuss.

 

There have also been some concerns with conflicting information being provided, initially with the flue not being covered and again when the scaffolding was required.  Following discussions with you, both of these points were corrected and we agreed to complete the work however, we were never provided with the option to undertake any work as the part required was never supplied to us to begin the repair.

 

As confirmed during your discussions with Christopher, we are not liable for the replacement of the boiler or the flue.  The appliance was approximately 28 years old which is out with the age range of our boiler replacement section of the policy terms, and also the part was confirmed as obsolete during our investigation and discussions with our parts department and the manufacturer.

 

In addition, the claim that the part had been sourced and could be made available for us to install never materialised and as a result we could not verify that the part in question was correct and suitable therefore, nullifying any options which we had provided in order to correct this issue.

 

As you were unhappy with our response, the details of your complaint were escalated to our Area Manager, Keith Cook, for further review.

 

Following his review, Keith would like to extend his apologies for the dis-satisfaction you have expressed, however is in agreement with the outcome provided by our Service Manager.

 

Whilst we always strive to satisfy our customers, regrettably it is not always possible to resolve matters to everyone’s satisfaction. I realise this is not the response you were seeking, but hope I have clarified our final position in this matter.

 

You have the right to refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, free of charge – but you must do so within six months of the date of this email.  If you do not refer your complaint in time, the Ombudsman will not have our permission to consider your complaint and so will only be able to do so in very limited circumstances.  For example, if the Ombudsman believes that the delay was as a result of exceptional circumstances.

I’ve enclosed a link with information about the service the Ombudsman provides and you can also access this online at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.  Referring your complaint to the Ombudsman does not affect your statutory rights.

 

If there’s anything further that you would like to bring to our attention that’s not already been considered, or if anything mentioned is incorrect, you are more than welcome to contact me on the telephone number: 0333 202 9734 or via email on: leigh.mccann@britishgas.co.uk.

Yours sincerely

Leigh McCann

 

So on Feb 11th 2019, I sent the following:

 

Dear Leigh Mc Cann,

Thank you for your email dated Feb 6, 2019 in response to my calls and emails.

Your email ended “If there’s anything further that you would like to bring to our attention that’s not already been considered, or if anything mentioned is incorrect, you are more than welcome to contact me…”

Your response has raised one or two further points along with a few new questions and I will wait a further 14 days for your response before either approaching the ombudsman or sending British Gas a ‘Letter before Claim’ prior to legal proceedings. Despite my previously stated intent to initiate court action last week, I have therefore not yet done so.

Please also be advised that I have requested from British Gas a recording of all our phone conversations since Jan 1st, 2019 and that, with immediate effect, I have cancelled the Homecare Policy I held with British Gas for the past 25+ years.

For our collective ease of communication, I have divided my questions / points into 14 main sections, most of which are subdivided (1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b etc)

(1) You wrote “It is agreed that when this issue was initially highlighted the communication was incorrect, we do provide cover for room sealed flues up to 1 metre in length.”(a)      Please confirm why I was told that flues were not covered by the policy I had paid for when, in fact, they were?

(b)      Was this a genuine error / lack of information or a deliberate attempt to mislead in order to manipulate me into purchasing a new boiler system from British Gas?

(c)      How do you justify your answer to (b)?

(d)      What would have happened if I had accepted your assertion that my flue was not covered, purchased a new system from you and then discovered that I was covered by your policy after all?

(e)      Does British Gas consider it reasonable that its customers possess a greater knowledge of the Terms & Conditions of British Gas’s Homecare Policies than its own staff? If you do consider this
reasonable, why is this?

(2) You wrote: “There were also some delays encountered during your contact with British Gas Customer Relations and also when calling our Service Manager Christopher.”

During my conversation with John Kerr, I was assured that my case was  a high priority and that, if a resolution was not reached within 48 hours, I was to call him back late afternoon on Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019. I did call him back on the afternoon of Jan 17th and was told it was his day off.

(a)     Why did Mr Kerr ask me to call him back on his day off?

(b)    Why did he not return any of my subsequent calls / messages?

As a landlord, every delay and bout of obfuscation equated to another day when I was renting out my flat with a non-compliant boiler.

(c)      Having experienced a succession of ‘he’ll get back to you later today / in an hour / tomorrow” promises from other British Gas staff – none of which happened, how was I supposed to know when I would actually hear back?

(d)    Why does British Gas consider this to be acceptable?

(3) You wrote “In addition there were claims that there was a lack of calls from our Service Manager when you had called for information or updates.  I can confirm that our Service Managers deal with a number of issues as they manage a large team of engineers and also must commute between sites to work with their teams.”

(a)      I had already been told that my case was “high priority” but these delays from British Gas left me in the extremely difficult and stressful predicament of renting out my flat with a non compliant boiler. Whilst Mr Gunn was waiting to hear back from his scaffolders, am I unreasonable to expect that he could and should have made a quick phone call to me to advise that this was the reason for the delay? It would have taken him less than a minute.

(4) You wrote “Our company policy states that no member of staff can make phone calls while driving therefore any contact must be done when they are stationary, although calls may not have been returned immediately, Christopher has made contact within reasonable timeframes and kept you updated where there was information available.

(a)      I must refute the implication that I expected Mr Gunn to call me whilst driving.

Please advise why you are of the belief that I expected Mr Gunn to break the law in order to contact me?

(b)    The events suggest that British Gas showed no genuine sense of urgency over the fact that I was renting out my flat with a non-compliant boiler despite a fully paid up Homecare Policy that covered me to have the flue made compliant by British Gas and I suggest this is incongruent with Mr Kerr’s assertion that my case was a high priority. Does British Gas accept that this is true? If not, how does British Gas explain this?

(c)    I do not accept that the contact I received from Christopher Gunn or John Kerr were “within reasonable timeframes.” At the time of writing, I have still not heard back from Mr Kerr. Does British Gas’s definition of “reasonable timeframe” include not hearing back at all?

(d)      You wrote that “(Mr Gunn) kept you updated where there was information available.” Does British Gas believe that replying promptly to a customer’s messages – even if that reply is a brief update that the necessary information is on the way – is neither important, professional or courteous?

(e)      The poor communication I have detailed above is a key factor that forced me to employ an independent Engineer to ensure that my tenants had a safe and compliant boiler system. Does British Gas accept this? If not, given the situation I was in and that my calls and messages to British Gas were not being returned, what action(s) would you recommend I should have taken instead? I believe that making alternative arrangements and pursuing British Gas for costs, breach of contract, mis-information and related damages is the only reasonable option open to me. If you do not agree, what alternative options do you suggest are reasonable and why?

(5) You wrote “In regard to the flue replacement, we had been informed by the manufacturer that this part was obsolete however, given that you had confirmed that you had sourced a replacement we had agreed to fit this on the condition the part was correct and there were no concerns with the integrity of the part.  As we do not directly manufacture the parts for the appliance we are at the mercy of the
manufacturer and our suppliers, this is out with our control and so we cannot accept any liability for the availability or potential issues with parts which are obtained through alternate methods.”

(a)      Whilst it is true that the first supplier I found did not have the part, I still managed to source the replacement flue kit within 10 minutes and 2 phone calls. Furthermore, the supplier had an
active account with British Gas. Why was British Gas unable to source the part whilst a member of the public with access to Google could?

(b)      Is it reasonable or realistic that the UK’s biggest gas company is not able to source a flue part whilst a non professional with a computer and a phone is able to?

(c)      Please confirm if the information I was given re: the flue part being obsolete was a genuine error or lack of information or a deliberate attempt to mislead / deceive in order to manipulate me into purchasing a new system from British Gas?

(d)    How do you justify your answer to (c)?

(e)      What would have happened if I had accepted your assertion that the flue was obsolete, purchased a new system from you and then discovered that the flue part was available after all?

(6) You wrote “Once again, it is agreed that there was some conflicting information regarding the scaffolding and how this would be arranged, I can confirm that the policy does contain a section for gaining access whereby we would cover any costs of gaining access to the appliance up to a total cost of £1000.00.

(a)      Please confirm if the previous information I was given by British Gas re: scaffolding NOT being covered by my policy was a genuine error / lack of information or a deliberate attempt to mislead  / deceive in order to manipulate me into purchasing a new boiler system from British Gas?

(b)    How do you justify your answer to (a)?

(c)      What would have happened if I had accepted your assertion that scaffolding was not covered, purchased a new system from you and then discovered that scaffolding costs were covered after all?

(7) You wrote “Please accept my apologies that the level of service you have experienced was not to the standard you were expecting.”

(a) Does British Gas feel that the level of service I expected was reasonable? If so, why?

(b) An accepted and inherently implied feature of an apology is an acknowledgement of error. What specifically do you accept that British Gas has done wrong regarding the Homecare service / cover and its communication?

(c) Are you really apologetic? Or is that something you always write?

(8) You wrote “In regard to the points related to the potential of a new boiler being fitted, this would not necessarily have required scaffolding as the boiler and flue would be replaced in their entirety therefore access from inside the property would have been sufficient, as evidenced by your third party.  When replacing a boiler and flue the old appliance can be removed which results in access to the flue being available from a position that is not available when simply replacing the flue on its own.”

I accept that this is possible and plausible. Whilst I appreciate the information, though, it is an incidental point (albeit one I initiated) and does not weaken or change any of my concerns or the core of my complaint(s).

(9) You wrote: “In your email, you state that if you had allowed the third party to replace the flue then this would have been a violation of your policy as all work had to be done by British Gas in order for your policy to remain valid.  I can confirm that this is incorrect, at no time do we state that we will invalidate the policy where a third party works on any appliance.”

Thank you for clarifying. I accept that this was incorrect and withdraw it from my catalogue of concerns and complaint(s). However, for the record, it was the British Gas engineer who carried out the Gas Safety Inspection (Steve) who insisted that any historic work carried out by a 3rd party would be an invalidation of my policy. The context for this discussion was over boiler parts that had previously been replaced. Whether through ignorance or design, this represents a further illustration of misinformation from British Gas. Consequently, I also seek answers to the following:

(a)      Why did your engineer advise that any historic work to my boiler which had not been carried out by British Gas would be an invalidation of my Homecare policy? Are your engineers encouraged  to  persuade customers to invest in a new boiler, even when  a repair  is possible and covered by the Homecare terms and conditions?

(10) You wrote: “You also state that you only had the British Gas diagnosis of the fault.  Should there have been any concerns with our diagnosis of the flue then a second opinion could have been requested at any time, either by requesting another engineer visit or by asking our Service Manager, Christopher, for another inspection to be completed during your conversations with him.  We have no record of
any such request being made and therefore have no concerns regarding our diagnosis of the fault which we identified.”

I am not disputing this point. British Gas diagnosed that the fault was with the flue. A replacement flue part was sourced and the work was covered by my policy. Despite this, I believe British Gas consistently   misinformed, obfuscated and communicated so poorly that I was left with no realistic option other than to find an alternative solution and purse British Gas for the costs, breach of contract  and related damages. If British Gas believes any aspect of my assertion to be inaccurate, can British Gas  offer a credible alternative explanation?

(11) You wrote “The appliance was approximately 28 years old which is out with the age range of our boiler replacement section of the policy terms.”(a) When exactly did my boiler become “out with the age range of (y)our boiler replacement section of the policy terms”?

(b) Why did British Gas  continue to take my money and provide cover once my boiler became “out with the age range of (y)our boiler replacement section of the policy terms”?

(c) At the time when my boiler did become “out with the age range of (y)our boiler replacement section of the policy terms” why was I not informed of this?

(c) What other repairs did you carry out on my boiler once it became “out with the age range of (y)our boiler replacement section of the policy terms”?

(12) You wrote “the claim that the part had been sourced and could be made available for us to install never materialised and as a result we could not verify that the part in question was correct and suitable
therefore, nullifying any options which we had provided in order to correct this issue.”

(a) Christopher Gunn spoke with the supplier and confirmed during our conversation that there was no reason to believe the part was not correct. However, the communication issues at the heart of my complaint rendered the alternative action I have taken necessary.

(13) You wrote: “It was confirmed that there were some concerns with the part in question and how this would be purchased as the manufacturer had deemed the part to be obsolete, in addition we had been told that the part was included in the purchase of a boiler and not available as a separate purchase.  We confirmed that, in the event that you purchased the flue, we would reimburse the cost of this
particular part and the postage incurred.  We also verified that this part would need to be inspected before we would make arrangements to fit it to the appliance.”

(a) I am not aware of any concerns with the part in question. I crosschecked the boiler’s GC number with the supplier (a supplier with whom British Gas has an active account) and it was the correct part. Mr Gunn also made the same checks and, during my conversation with him, confirmed that there was no reason to believe the parts were not correct.

(b) I am unsure of the relevance of your assertion that “It was confirmed that there were some concerns with the part in question and how this would be purchased as the manufacturer had deemed the part to be obsolete, in addition we had been told that the part was included in the purchase of a boiler and not available as a separate purchase”. Furthermore, this is not something that Mr Gunn had mentioned directly to me.

(c) With regards to the following:

“We confirmed that, in the event that you purchased the flue, we would reimburse the cost of this particular part and the postage incurred.  We also verified that this part would need to be inspected before we would make arrangements to fit it to the appliance.”

This is correct and I was willing to do this once I knew what the scaffolding costs would be. Mr Gunn advised that I was only covered for up to £1000 of scaffolding costs and, even though I was able to get an independent quote within that budget (within 10 minutes of ending the conversation with Mr Gunn), by the time he did get back to me with a quote, given the responsibilities I have as a landlord to my tenants and the fact that my calls and messages to British Gas were not being responded to in a timely manner (if at all), I had no realistic option other than to commission an alternative solution and to pursue British Gas for the associated costs and damages.

(13) You wrote “As you were unhappy with our response, the details of your complaint were escalated to our Area Manager, Keith Cook, for further review” and “Following his review, Keith would like to extend his apologies for the dis-satisfaction you have expressed, however is in agreement with the outcome provided by our Service Manager.”

For the record, this is the first point at I have been aware of the involvement of Keith Cook. I note that he too is apologetic and would be interested to know his response to the following:

(a)      Does Mr Cook feel that the level of service I expected was unreasonable?

(b)    An implied feature of an apology is an acceptance of error. What specifically does Mr Cook accept that British Gas has done wrong regarding the Homecare service / cover and its communication?

(c)      How often is Mr Cook NOT in agreement with the outcome provided by other managers at British Gas during customer resolution investigations of this nature?

(d)    Is Mr Cook really feeling apologetic? Or is that something he always writes / says/ extends?

(14) You wrote: “It is agreed that when this issue was initially highlighted the communication was incorrect.”

(a) When I was told by British Gas that flues were not covered by my policy, we agree that this illustrates “communication (that) was incorrect.”  Was this an intentional deceit or the result of ineptitude?

(b) When I was told by British Gas that it would not be possible to source a replacement flue, we agree that this illustrates “communication (that) was incorrect.”  Was this an intentional deceit or the result of ineptitude?

(c) When I was told by British Gas that my policy did not cover scaffolding costs, we agree that this illustrates “communication (that) was incorrect.”  Was this an intentional deceit or the result of ineptitude?

(d) When I was told on several occasions that I would be called back within an hour, or later that day or the next day, we agree that this illustrates “communication (that) was incorrect.” Was this an intentional deceit or the result of ineptitude?

(e) When I was told that any historic work to my boiler which had not been carried out by British Gas would be an invalidation of my Homecare policy, we agree that this illustrates “communication (that) was incorrect.”  Was this an intentional deceit or the result of ineptitude?

(f) Is “the communication was incorrect” a euphemism that British Gas uses to mean “an established system of corporate timewasting, deceit and obfuscation designed to wear down its customers.”

A final point.

My flat does now have the benefit of a new boiler and, as such, I am amending my claim against British Gas so as not to include the full cost of the new boiler and installation. Instead, I will  pursue British Gas for the established costs of the flue repair – costs for which I was covered by British Gas Homecare yet, through a combination of  ineptitude and intentional deceit / obfuscation, I was denied the benefit. The flue replacement kit was £260 + VAT, scaffolding was £500 + VAT and labour, at a conservative guess, no less than £300 (total approx. £1200). In terms of the more nefarious components to my claim, should British Gas be confident in its ability to defend the indefensible, I will seek the maximum possible damages allowed by the courts.

I look forward to receiving your full response within 14 days (by Feb 25th, 2019)

Yours sincerely

Joel Sanders

 

At 18.10 on Feb 11th, 2019, I received the following reply. Rather than assigning my case to one member of staff, someone else replies each time.

 

Dear Mr Sanders,

Thank you for your email to Customer Manager Leigh McCann as well as CEO Mark Hodges, received on 11 February 2019, in relation to your previous complaint.  As a Customer Manager within the Executive Office team, this matter has been raised to my attention.

Thank you for listing your concerns.  I am currently reviewing the information we hold as well as the information you’ve listed in your email.  I will be back in touch within the next 7 days with an update.

In the meantime, should you wish to reach me or raise anything else to my attention, you can do so by telephone on 0333 202 9847 or by email  rima.igolkaite1@britishgas.co.uk.

Yours sincerely,

Rima Igolkaite

 

And so it came to pass that on the 7th day, I received this reply:

Our reference: 8010268207

Dear Mr Sanders,

Thank you for your email received on 11 February 2019 in response to a final response email sent by Leigh McCann.  As mentioned in my previous email, since the email copied in CEO Mark Hodges, this matter has been raised to my attention.

I appreciate the opportunity to review your concerns and I would like to confirm that I’ve completed a thorough investigation to the concerns raised.  Firstly, I’d like to clarify that I consider the outcome to complaint reference number 8010190040 to be correct and the final response outcome still stands. I will address the complaint points raised, however if any of the complaint points have been addressed already, they will not be revisited.

1. You asked to clarify why  were you told that flues were not covered under your policy. If you have been advised that flues are not covered, this would have been said in error, as our terms and conditions clarify that your policy includes repairs to the flue including the flue terminal, up to one metre in length.  Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this has caused you.
2. In relation to why did John Kerr ask you to call him back on his day off, again I am sorry to say this would have been done in error.  In relation to why he did not return your calls, it may help if I explain that John works in a team, which wouldn’t address customer complaints, but rather ensures that the complaints are sent to the appropriate teams and complaint managers.  It wouldn’t be his responsibility to return your calls.  I agree it would have been polite to do so and I will make sure that feedback is provided to John.
3. I am sorry that service manager Christopher Gunn was not able to return your calls in what you would consider to be a timely manner.  I appreciate your comments that a quick phone call would have sufficed, however as explained by Leigh, this is not always possible.
4. I would like to clarify that Leigh was not implying that you expected  Christopher Gunn to call you while driving- she was illustrating the situation and explaining in further detail one of the reasons why Christopher was not able to contact you sooner.  Your complaint was raised as a priority matter and although we appreciate that you have tenants at the property, we have up to 8 weeks to resolve a complaint, in line with our complaint handling process. You were advised in the first instance that a new boiler is required, therefore advising you of what we consider are the correct actions to be taken- i.e. replace the boiler. We stand by our diagnosis, however I am sorry to hear you do not consider contact from Christopher to have been within reasonable timeframes.
5. We  only source parts from our approved suppliers.  It wouldn’t be our responsibility or an expectation for us to source parts from anywhere else. In line with the terms and conditions of your HomeCare Policy, If we’re unable to provide a part with similar functionality we’ll install a new and unused like for like alternative that you provide, but we’ll only accept responsibility for our workmanship.   There was no errors in relation to the information provided to you regarding the part availability- the part was obsolete with our suppliers.
6. You noted that you were advised that cost of scaffolding will not be covered. If you have been advised that scaffolding is not covered under your policy, this would have been an error.  Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this has caused you.
7. We apologise for our errors and accept that unfortunately things sometimes go wrong.  We also apologise for not being able to meet your expectations as we are a customer centric business and your satisfaction with our products is important to us.
9. As I cannot listen to the exact conversation you’ve had with Steve, I can only interpret what was discussed or explained. Our Terms and Conditions explain that pre-existing faults as well as poor installation by third parties is not covered.  I assume this is what the engineer meant when discussing the matter with you. However please be aware this is an assumption.  If he specifically said that any third party work, whether carried out correctly or not, would invalidate the policy, I apologise for the engineers mistake. Our engineers are highly qualified and only advise of boiler replacement when it’s a reasonable.
11. In line with the terms and conditions of your HomeCare Policy, Central Heating Cover, What’s covered:
A replacement for your boiler if we can’t repair it and it’s less than seven years old   •  Or, it’s between seven and ten years old, we installed it and it’s been continuously covered by British Gas under either a warranty or HomeCare agreement  • Or, it caught fire or exploded, providing you gave us access to carry out your annual service within every period of agreement since we first covered you.  We wouldn’t inform you of this specifically- terms and conditions to your agreement are sent to you at the time of each renewal annually and it is your responsibility to ensure you are familiar with them.
12. You advise that Christopher Gunn spoke with the supplier and there was no reason to believe the part was incorrect.  Regardless of that, we would have needed to inspect the part, to ensure its new and unused.  We wouldn’t have agreed to carry out the replacement of the flue without physically checking it’s the correct part.
13.  I am sorry you were not aware that there were concerns with the part. As advised the manufacturer had deemed the part to be obsolete, in addition we had been told that the part was included in the purchase of a boiler and not available as a separate purchase, therefore we were unsure as to how the part would be obtained by yourself.
14. In this point you refer to the same information as in point 1, therefore I have not repeated the answer.

Please note I have not provided answers to point 8 and 10 from your emails.  The reason for that is due to the fact that I trust that neither of these points raises a question and are your personal opinion.  Thank you for explaining these to me.

I would like to also explain that we won’t speculate or attempt to answer what would have happened, but has not happened.  This is in reference to your complaint points 1D, 5E, 6C. We will only address the facts that have occurred.

Additionally, it is unfortunate that you’d think our agents would deliberately mislead you, this is in reference to your complaint points 1B and 14B through 14F.  Please be assured that this is not our intention, however unfortunately errors happen. If we’ve identified that a mistake has been made, we will always acknowledge, apologise, investigate and correct actions whenever possible.

I understand that you felt you had no other choice but to replace the boiler. To clarify, if you had the flue replaced by the third party, we could have considered reimbursement of the cost of that repair, as a gesture of goodwill.  Essentially the repair to the flue was not completed by a third party, therefore we wouldn’t take that into consideration.  We also wouldn’t contribute towards the cost of a new boiler, as explained above, in line with the terms of the policy.

I hope the above addresses your concerns.  If there’s anything else you’d like me to clarify, please do not hesitate to let me know and I will be happy to help.

Yours sincerely,

Rima Igolkaite | HQ Customer Manager

 

I replied on the 7th day too:

 

Dear Ms Igolkaite,

Thank you for your reply, in particular for responding within 7 days. Throughout my dealings with British Gas, I think you are the only person to  reply when you said you would. 
Unfortunately, this will now become a public matter. You state that you believe the  outcome of the original investigation to be correct but , in my opinion, it’s doubtful that an independent  assessment will agree.
Whilst you accept that British Gas made errors on more than one occasion you don’t accept that these errors were contributing factors to the costs and damages I have incurred – namely that I was misinformed regarding what my Home Care insurance entitled me to, misinformed about the availability of parts and – one time after another – denied the opportunity  to communicate with British Gas at the times when I was told I would be. 
Consequently, I had no realistic option other  than to seek an independent solution. 
British Gas, however, had agreed to insure me and  taken payments for this insurance. By consistently not communicating and  providing numerous examples of misinformation, do you not agree that British Gas must  take some responsibility for the need for an alternative solution? The  nature of that responsibility will now need to be measured externally.
A few weeks ago, I called British Gas and requested a copy of the recordings of all the conversations between British Gas and myself from Jan 1st 2019 to the present day. Once again, I was told someone would get back to me (“in a couple of days” on this occasion).  However, I have not heard back and am still waiting for these recordings. Would you be able to chase this up for me please without the need for an additional formal complaint to be raised?
You refer to having up to 8 weeks to resolve a complaint. As a landlord, does that mean I also have up to 8 weeks to repair a non compliant boiler? During my previous conversations with British Gas personnel , it was made clear that I needed to find an urgent solution… which I did.
Yours sincerely
Joel Sanders