Portsmouth strip club director left seething after student flat he owns slapped with £33k British Gas bill

A strip club director is taking an energy giant to court after a student flat he owns was brandished with an enormous utility bill.
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Taran Singh Ojla, 24, was left incandescent with rage after he woke up to find £33,671.80 had been taken out of his company account by British Gas. His family-run company, OJ's Discount Ltd, was hit with the charge on November 7 last year for the former Cabman's Rest pub in Hyde Park Road, Southsea - since converted into a student flat.

The knock-on effect on the Ojla family's other businesses, including Wiggle Strip Club in Surrey Street, has been severe. Mr Ojla, of Fareham, said the unexpected charge has “wreaked havoc” on the company and caused severe emotional stress.

Taran Ojla, director of Wiggle Strip Club in Surrey Street, was furious with British Gas after a flat he owned in Southsea was charged over £33k for its utility bill. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla on March 1, 2024. Picture: Habibur RahmanTaran Ojla, director of Wiggle Strip Club in Surrey Street, was furious with British Gas after a flat he owned in Southsea was charged over £33k for its utility bill. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla on March 1, 2024. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Taran Ojla, director of Wiggle Strip Club in Surrey Street, was furious with British Gas after a flat he owned in Southsea was charged over £33k for its utility bill. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla on March 1, 2024. Picture: Habibur Rahman
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He told The News: "It was an absolute shock. You look online at your online banking to see that £33k was taken out by your energy provider, and you think ‘what on earth is going on? The immediate response was to phone the bank. They returned the money, and British Gas’ response was to take the money out again from our accounts.

"You don’t understand the level of turmoil that causes when you’ve got bills to pay, rates to pay, payroll to do, and British Gas is holding your money against you. We’ve still got other financial commitments, and during this period, there is nothing you can do. You’re stuck at the mercy of the energy provider."

The five-figure energy bill was caused by an incorrect meter reading. Documents seen by The News said a meter reading was initially carried out at the Cabman’s Rest on October 12, 2023, with British Gas charging Mr Ojla back to the last firm meter reading date of November 2, 2022. The entrepreneur said he had to take out loans to cover costs from his other businesses.

Mr Ojla said he tried to shield his staff from the financial pressures put on the company, as he didn't want them to suffer the mental anguish he endured. He added that dealing with British Gas left him stressed and angry. "The process was thwarted with problems," he said. "You are spending hours of your day going backwards and forwards with the energy provider. They seemed to come up with excuses at every stage.

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"It’s always a headache. I had to try and make ends meet. The pressure is unbelievable. You’re thinking about it at night and there’s nothing else like it. You’re doing your best not to get angry at the people on the other end of the phone, because there is nothing they can do sometimes. But you just think ‘guys there is so much money on the line here, this is a business that is being put in jeopardy.’”

Mr Ojla said he is taking British Gas to small claims court, as the charge against the student flat put his company under financial strain. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla - Managing Director of OJs Group at Wiggle Strip Club. Picture: Habibur RahmanMr Ojla said he is taking British Gas to small claims court, as the charge against the student flat put his company under financial strain. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla - Managing Director of OJs Group at Wiggle Strip Club. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Mr Ojla said he is taking British Gas to small claims court, as the charge against the student flat put his company under financial strain. Pictured: Taran Singh Ojla - Managing Director of OJs Group at Wiggle Strip Club. Picture: Habibur Rahman

After follow up meter readings, it was found British Gas had drastically overcharged Mr Ojla - with the accurate usage being £1,677.10. The energy giant refunded £31,994.70 on February 14, over three months after the initial bill was made. British Gas offered Mr Ojla £200 as goodwill gesture alongside a written apology, but this was turned down.

Mr Ojla said the compensation offered does not come close to covering the financial damage the company suffered, which included interest on business loans. "We are taking them to small claims court," the 24-year-old said. "We are fed up with the energy providers bullying small businesses. I want to teach them a lesson. Why should they get away with this? Why should they take money from small businesses?

"This happens to businesses across the country, even residents who are moving into a new house. Don’t be scared to go to small claims court. Don’t be afraid to fight back.” The case is now being reviewed by the energy ombudsman. Mr Ojla advises business owners to speak to the ombudsman as soon as possible if they are overcharged.

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A British Gas spokesman said the matter has been resolved with Mr Ojla, with the company issuing a refund. "This was sent following a bill that was based on an incorrect meter reading that was taken in October last year, and we are sorry for this,” he added.

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