Moneywise fights for your rights - British Gas, YBS, EE

British Gas wrongly sends me bills for £1,000

I have lived in my flat since 1998 and every so often British Gas would send me a gas bill – despite me never using it.

It would always be an estimated bill and I would simply call it up and explain that I didn't use gas and the bill would be cancelled. I was unable to get the meter removed as it was a council flat.

The bills eventually stopped after I bought the flat in 2007 but in April, after I had the meter removed, I received a bill for £1,000 and have done every month since. After contacting British Gas each time, I was told it wouldn't happen again – only for it to do so.

It's not very nice to be sent a bill for such a large amount every month and I don't currently answer my mobile phone to unknown numbers because it might be British Gas asking for payment. It's very stressful for me and shows absolute incompetence on the company's part.

What is going on?

Moneywise says…

What a frustrating situation for our reader to find herself in – landed with a regular, giant gas bill when she doesn't even use gas. It also seems like a very simple thing for British Gas to put right.

We got in touch to find what's gone wrong. Having looked into the matter, a British Gas spokesperson apologised profusely for what our reader has encountered. She said the situation had occurred due to a "system error", which prevented her records from being corrected to show LC didn't have a meter – as they should have been.

British Gas has now confirmed that its records have been updated and that LC will receive no more gas bills.

While we're glad the company has finally taken the action it has promised to for so long, LC remains dubious that she won't receive a bill next month. We're not surprised, given what's she been through. Hopefully, the £50 gesture of goodwill British Gas has sent her will go some way to restoring her faith in the company.

YBS sticks to early repayment charge

Two years ago, I paid an early repayment charge (ERC) to an earlier provider to arrange a five-year fixed portable offset mortgage with Yorkshire Building Society (YBS).

Portability was the key for me as I knew I might move in the future. I work in property refurbishment and when I took the mortgage, my income was very low, due to the recession.

However, I have since been refused the right to port the mortgage to my new residential property, with the reason given that despite my now considerably higher income, I do not meet its new affordability income criteria.

Under dispute, I had to pay the ERC of £7,500 and cleared the mortgage, losing the offset in the process.

I have been a YBS customer for 13 years and have a number of buy-to-let mortgages with them. I feel I have been treated very unfairly. YBS has refused to return the ERC, which I believe it should.

Moneywise says…

This case should serve as a potential warning to those looking to remortgage after the introduction of stricter and tougher rules into the market by the Mortgage Market Review (MMR).

When we contacted YBS for more information about our reader's case, it explained that he failed its affordability tests due to his existing buy-to-let portfolio and its accompanying tax liabilities, despite his improved income.

Regarding the portability of the mortgage,YBS told us that all mortgage documentation makes it clear any future borrowing is conditional on meeting the criteria when a new application is made and that portability is not guaranteed.

"At no point was he told that he would definitely be able to port the mortgage to a new property," the spokesperson said.

The lender also pointed out that MH took the mortgage on a non-advised basis. He didn't receive a recommendation from YBS on which product would best suit him and this was again made "clear" to him via the product documentation.

As a result,YBS hasn't agreed to refund our reader's ERC charge and feels it has acted in a responsible manner. While Moneywise fully understands his frustrations, the only course of action he can now pursue is to take his complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

MH told Moneywise: "Given that I had significant income verified for last year, alongside a perfect credit history on various mortgages over a 10-year period, there is either something wrong with the new mortgage rules or, more pertinently, with the way in which YBS interpreted them."

EE won't cancel our contract

Earlier this year, my husband and I both signed up to a mobile contract with EE at a cost of £8.99 a month.

A couple of months later, there was a big thunderstorm in our area and our mobiles stopped receiving any signal.We thought this was due to damage to our signal mast.

After speaking again and again with EE – over the phone and in store – we still weren't able to get any signal and when I spoke about cancelling my contract, I was told I would have to pay £80.

We are still without our mobiles and don't know what to do. Up until the thunderstorm, they worked perfectly.
MJ/North Wales

Moneywise says…

Losing signal is always exasperating and doing so as the result of a thunderstorm seems particularly bad luck. But assuming the ‘act of God' was responsible, it seems poor on EE's part not to cancel the contract for free.

When we contacted the company to find out more, it transpired that the signal problem didn't actually stem from bad weather but instead from work being carried out to ‘integrate' the Orange and T-Mobile networks on to EE's.

This so-called ‘signal optimisation' has seen EE remove some masts that offer the same signal coverage on both networks in some parts of the country.

This process has left some customers with significantly reduced or no signal at all.Those affected can potentially have their contracts terminated under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 but providers often aren't keen to let customers go without penalty.

After Moneywise got in touch, EE looked into the matter to see what could be done. It told us that it had discussed giving MJ a signal box booster, which uses the home broadband to create a 3G signal. However, as our reader only has a 2G phone, this wasn't suitable.

Fortunately, a member of EE's executive office contacted MJ soon after we got in touch to apologise for the inconvenience she suffered and offer her a refund of all charges paid so far, as well as the right to cancel her contract for free.