Woman alarmed to be hit with huge fuel bill from 18 years ago

Gillian Evison from Thornton who received a debt collection letter dating back to 2006
Gillian Evison from Thornton who received a debt collection letter dating back to 2006 -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

British Gas have apologised after a woman received a debt collection letter for a fuel bill dating from 2006.

Gillian Evison, 60, from Thornton, received the letter from debt recovery agency Capital Resolve on April 22, telling her she owed £414.72. The letter said: "It's time to pay your British Gas bill of £414.72."

Gillian panicked when she saw the letter. She told the ECHO: "I felt upset and shocked. I'd never received anything like that before. I've always paid my bills on time."

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She immediately got on the phone to British Gas to find out what had happened. She was shocked to learn from the customer service advisor that the debt related to a bill from 2006.

According to Gillian, it all stemmed from when she switched to a pay-as-you-go meter 18 years ago. She said: "I was told by British Gas that I had underpaid for my fuel consumption back in 2006. They told me then that they would put my pay-as-you-go meter on a higher rate and recover the money that way."

At the time, Gillian assumed the underpayment had taken care of. But she claims that due to a system error on the part of British Gas, they only recovered £16 of the money.

She said: "If they'd tried to contact me in the first place, I would have sorted it out. But I had no correspondence from them, then 18 years down the line I get a letter from a debt recovery agency, not British Gas. I've been a loyal British Gas customer for 19 years, and this is how they treat me."

The ECHO understands that the debt recovery letter was sent automatically when British Gas installed a smart credit meter at Gillian's address in February this year. This apparently caused the 'debt' to be automatically added back onto her account.

On April 25, British Gas reportedly closed Gillian's account with Capital Resolve. However, Gillian didn't find out about this until May 2, when she called Capital Resolve to find out what was happening. She said was "left for a week worrying" unnecessarily.

A spokesperson for British Gas said: “We’re sorry, the letter relates to a historic balance from 2006 and was sent in error. We’ve reassured Miss Evison that the bill has been cancelled, we have apologised and have also applied a goodwill credit on her account.”

There are rules in place to protect consumers like Gillian who have received back bills from energy suppliers. OFGEM guidelines state that you cannot be charged for energy used more than 12 months ago under the following circumstances: you have not had an accurate bill for it before, even though you asked for one; you have not been informed about any charges due via a statement of account before; or your Direct Debit amount was previously set too low to cover any charges due.

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