Jodie’s relief after four-year battle with British Gas which wanted £2,000 after billing her for a duff meter

Jodie and Phillip Vinall were over the moon when in 2015 they finally got their foot on the property ladder and moved into their Eastney home.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 9:49 am
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 12:15 pm
Jodie Vinall, 32, with the electricity meter which never worked.
Picture: Sarah Standing (260319-4092)
Jodie Vinall, 32, with the electricity meter which never worked. Picture: Sarah Standing (260319-4092)

But little did they know it was to be the start of a four-year nightmare trying to convince British Gas they hadn’t run up £2,000 in shared gas and electricity bills.

The property had been divided into two homes, and on moving in Jodie noticed there was only ‘a pay as you go’ gas meter installed.

She rang British Gas to explain the situation and ask if they also supplied the electricity.

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On being told it was no problem she gave them the meter number and reading, agreed standing order payments of £34 a month, and thought no more about it.

With the account formalities completed, everything appeared to be in order.

Popular local singer and hairdresser Jodie, 32, said: ‘Our problems all began about three or four months later when I realised the meter wasn’t working.

‘Fortunately I’d taken a photograph of it when we moved in so I had the proof it wasn’t ticking over and was a completely dud meter.

‘They never detected there was only one meter for both properties so I asked them to check it out.

‘Eventually an electrician came out, agreed it wasn’t working and they’d get someone out to fix it and that was that. No one ever got back to me, but I carried on paying anyway.

‘After about a year down the line it all became clear.

‘We had a massive power cut one day but realised we didn’t have a mains switch to turn it back on.

‘We were confused and realised something wasn’t right.

‘Phillip looked around the meter box and realised we actually had a sub-meter which had been connected to next door the whole time.

‘Next door turned it back on and both of us got onto British Gas to find out what was going on.

‘That’s when we discovered it was all running off one meter. When we bought the property it seems it hadn’t been legally separated.

‘One of their customer care people told me to stop paying them until they carried out further investigations, but they never got back with any help or told me what to do next leaving me very concerned and distressed.

‘My sister, who works for Southern Electric, told me about getting our own independent meters installed, so in 2017 we paid £4,360 because they had to dig up the road to get it sorted.

‘We then set up an account with Southern Electric and thought our problems were finally over.

‘But British Gas continued to bill us for the property next door, and said we owed them £2,000 for electricity including the period of time we weren’t even connected to their supply.’

‘It was an absolute nightmare.

‘Phillip became depressed about it and our marriage broke down for a bit because of it. The stress of everything was absolutely horrific.’

When a furious Jodie got onto British Gas to try to reason with them, she says they kept closing the case which prevented her from getting onto the energy ombudsman to obtain a resolution.

To add to her anguish she discovered her credit rating had been trashed which affected the relationship with their mortgage provider.

Driven to despair a devastated Jodie got onto Streetwise when she faced a sky-high demand from the energy giant to fork out £157 a month in repayments and just didn’t know which way to turn.

We accepted when the couple bought their home the division of the property had thrown up issues which should have been identified and sorted at the initial survey and conveyancing stage.

British Gas couldn’t be blamed for the mistakes of the vendors, but we were concerned they knew about the problem just a few months after Jodie moved in and added to the confusion by doing nothing about it.

Jodie had been paying them for two years without knowing precisely what she was paying for, and for which house. There were no accurate meter readings.

A customer service representative explicitly told her to stop the payments because she wasn’t liable for both properties.

If she carried on paying it amounted to an admission of liability.

After Streetwise put the couple’s case to the top energy firm, there was a distinct change of heart, and Jodie’s credit rating was restored.

A British Gas spokesperson said: ‘We correctly issued a bill for the shared meter which was once supplying Mrs Vinall’s property.

‘The payment of the bill is essentially a third-party dispute between Mrs Vinall and her neighbour.

‘However, we understand Mrs Vinall was unaware of the meter set up when purchasing her home.

‘We also note she has made payments towards the bill and has arranged for the supplies to be separated.

‘With two meters now installed, we can bill Mrs Vinall for her usage alone moving forward.

‘In light of this, as a gesture of goodwill we have cleared the rest of the balance.

‘Mrs Vinall has told us she is very happy with the actions we’ve taken to help and considers her issues raised with us resolved.’

When Jodie learned their four-year battle with British Gas had ended her relief was palpable.

‘This matter has been affecting my life for all that time,’ she said.

‘I cried my eyes out when I got the phone call from British Gas. I was so happy and so relieved because it had been an absolute nightmare.

‘I cannot thank you enough. Streetwise has been incredible.’