Contract concern after engineer’s poor advice

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q My Gloworm boiler, which has given me sterling service for the past 12 years, needed a replacement part.

A British Gas engineer told me that replacement parts were not available, and suggested a new boiler option costing more than £3,000.

I contacted the boiler manufacturer, who flatly refuted parts were not available for my boiler.

I’m now concerned about the engineer’s wrong advice to the point where I should cancel my maintenance contract with them. Can you advise please?

NS (internet)

A I’ve not been slow to warn readers in the past about this British Gas spare parts ruse, which you have rightly confirmed by contacting the manufacturer.

British Gas service engineers receive financial incentives for flogging you a new boiler, and other chargeable goods and services.

The regulator, Ofgem, has previously frowned on this practice, but whether out of not having the power to do something about it, or just simply falling asleep at the back of the shop, the watchdog has failed to bite as well as bark.

What many people seem not to understand is that when the British Gas brand name was sold off to a private company 25 years ago, the cuddly trustworthy engineer from the ‘gas board’ morphed into a hardnosed profit-driven salesman.

In the process many people think that British Gas has some kind of official status, and its engineers still play by the old gas board rulebook.

I’m sorry to shatter any such illusions, but if your experience is anything to go by, BG’s sales practices need to receive the thumbs down from consumers and you may want to make a start by considering cancelling your maintenance contract and going elsewhere.

Q I have concerns about my employer not repairing the extractor fans promptly in the plating shop where I work.

I have spoken to my manager but he’s not at all interested that dangerous fumes could put my safety at risk.

You answered a similar query last week, but is there anything else I can do short of going to the health and ssafety people?

TH (internet)

A I can’t begin to tell you how serious a matter this is. There are recorded cases of people falling into vats of cleaning chemicals on being overcome by noxious fumes, and you should do something about this situation immediately.

If you do not have trade union representation, then you should find out if the firm has a whistle-blowing procedure. This should enable you to make a complaint to top management without fear of reprisal or victimisation.

Your right to do this is enshrined in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, but take advice from an employment solicitor as the procedure for making a disclosure is fraught with legal minefields.


Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.