Some of your queries are relatively easy to sort out. They usually involve a problem or mistake and once I point it out to a company, it usually tries to respond positively.
But then there are the complaints that go on for months and often don’t even make it to this column as I can’t persuade a firm to see sense and play fair.
DF sent me a long and impassioned email back in April in which he reported: “Our daughter has almost been driven to a nervous breakdown over all this”.
He wrote: “I am writing to you as I have run out of options to help us with a dispute with British Gas.”
He told me his daughter applied for a green deal grant offered by British Gas in partnership with the local authority to insulate her Plymouth house in 2015. Things began to go wrong right from the beginning, he said, as workers put up scaffolding that perforated a flat roof. That led to water pouring in, ruining a recently plastered ceiling.
He continued: “Over the past three years, there has been a whole catalogue of incidents and accidents that our daughter has documented relating to poor and shoddy workmanship, from workmen falling through a window and shattering the glass and then replacing it with glass that didn’t fit properly to pouring surplus concrete down drains and then denying culpability.”
He said that in the past year damp has appeared in many of the rooms “and despite the fact we have tried to contact British Gas to discuss this, we never seem to get the same person twice.”
“I spoke to Laa-Laa, the customer service manager, then to Dipsy”
I got in touch with British Gas and, after an investigation, the company told me: “We have repeatedly engaged with [DF’s daughter] to address her concerns, which have been ongoing since 2015. We have attempted to agree a fair resolution with her, even though at times we have struggled to recognise some of the facts and circumstances portrayed.
“An independent third party has also assessed the issues referred to but, regretfully, their recommendations and conclusions were also declined by her. We will continue to do all we can to help bring this matter to a close.”
That was back in May. The good news is that after my intervention the family was contacted by the firm. The bad news is that it was just the beginning of another sequence of merry dances, which have so far led to no positive conclusions.
DF takes up the story (I’ve changed the names of the British Gas workers to Teletubbies as their actions seem symptomatic of the company).
“We were contacted almost immediately after your intervention by [Tinky Winky]. He gave many assurances and said he’d call within a week to report what was happening. After we emailed and phoned him several times with no response I spoke to [Laa-Laa], the customer service manager, who promised to look into things.
“In June we had a telephone call from [Dipsy] saying he was now taking over and was definitely going to sort it out. Hearing nothing, in mid-July I wrote outlining our concerns. At the end of July, I had a call from [Po], saying she was now dealing with it!”
By August, DF was talking about taking legal action, which he’s still considering. I thought the company’s actions since I had been in touch had been dismal, so made a last appeal to British Gas, telling it: “I can’t see that I have any other option than to list the terrible customer service DF has experienced on top of the original problems as a warning for other customers, unless you can come up with a more positive solution.”
Sadly, British Gas didn’t respond. You have therefore been duly warned.
OUTCOME: A series of disasters worsened by British Gas’s dismal response