British Gas has paid out £1.7m in compensation to more than 250,000 customers - here’s what happened

Thousands of British Gas customers were switched to a new provider in the middle of winter last year (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thousands of British Gas customers were switched to a new provider in the middle of winter last year, without being given a phone number to call or enough time to change provider if they encountered any problems.

British Gas has said it will now attempt to make amends by paying £1.48 million to customers, and putting £250,000 more into the energy redress fund.

How many people were affected?

The move from Paypoint to Payzone went live on 1 January 2020, and impacted more than a quarter of a million prepayment customers. However, customers were only told about the move in December 2019.

Energy regulator Ofgem said, "This left insufficient time for customers to switch supplier if they found the new arrangements to be problematic.”

The change in providers left some customers unable to top up their prepayment meters, as the minimum amount increased in price from £1 to £5. The shops people needed to visit in order to top up also changed.

"Some customers may have gone off supply as a result, or suffered detriment through wasted journeys to shops where they could no longer top-up,” said Ofgem.

"In addition, customers were unable to contact British Gas’ enquiry line the day of the change."

British Gas chose not to operate its general enquiries line on 1 January 2020, which was the date that the changes went live.

The notification which told customers about the change also did not include contact numbers for customers to call. Instead, it provided links to websites, leaving customers without internet access or expertise struggling to contact British Gas.

Ofgem retail director, Philippa Pickford, said, “When such a fundamental change is being made, such as where meters can be topped up, energy suppliers need to communicate with their customers in plenty of time.

"British Gas should have informed all of their prepayment customers, many of whom are in vulnerable situations, of the change to how to top-up their meters during the winter period."

How much will British Gas pay out?

British Gas has said it will pay £1.48 million to affected customers. The company will also put an extra £250,000 into the voluntary redress fund, which supports both consumers in vulnerable situations and the development of innovative products or services, and is administered by the Energy Savings Trust.

‘This transition was not as smooth as it should have been’

A British Gas spokesperson told Mirror Money, “We chose to move our prepayment top up service to Payzone as we believe they offer the best and most flexible service for our customers and will add more outlets where our customers need them. We recognise that this transition was not as smooth as it should have been and we would like to apologise again to any customer impacted.

“We respect Ofgem’s decision and will be paying an additional £250,000 to the Voluntary Redress fund. We have already paid £1.48m in compensation to our prepayment customers who were negatively impacted by this change.”