Ofgem has launched an investigation into British Gas following reports the firm has been sending debt collectors to “break into” customers’ homes to “force fit” prepayment meters – including in vulnerable households.
Keiley Probert said her home near Dudley was broken into by two British Gas agents and a locksmith on October 20, 2022, while one of her 14-year-old twin daughters, Morgan, was ill at home.
“(I felt) shock and horror that they were in my house and had gone upstairs into Morgan’s room”, the 33-year-old said.
“I was angered at how scared it had made Morgan.”
Keiley Probert’s mother, Helen Probert explained in more detail what transpired on October 20, 2022.
“While my daughter (Keiley) was out, one of her 14-year-old twin daughters (Morgan) was home unwell in bed,” the 54-year-old from Wolverhampton said.
“She said she heard some noise and then one of the men came up the stairs into her bedroom and she screamed as to why were they in the house. She was terrified.
“So she called her mom to tell her and my daughter was panicked, and then one of the agents called my daughter but she was yelling saying how dare you enter my daughter’s room and why was he even walking around her house.
“(One of the guys) went into her room too. The meters were outside on the wall.”
The 54-year-old added that Keiley is on universal credit and waiting to study at university and is a “single struggling parent” following the sudden passing of the father of her daughters last year, whom she did not wish to name, in his sleep at the age of 34.
“All her money is going on the meters to put heat and hot water in the house. She’s putting at least £70 in gas and she can’t keep up with even affording food,” she added.
“It’s absolutely disgusting what they are doing and the Government are allowing it.”
Keiley Probert added: “The tariffs are high on prepayment meters – I put £30 on and the gas has gone again.
“I try not to use too much gas – I use some in the early morning for an hour when (the children) get up for school, then again a couple of hours at night for baths so it’s warmer.
“I spend £60-70 on gas alone and that’s without electricity – it’s either heat or eat less.”
Helen Probert added that her daughter was not in a contract with British Gas, but the company decided to be her broker.
“She hadn’t given them any details to begin with when she moved in so had not entered into any signed contract or agreement with them,” she said.
She has berated British Gas for its response to the incident, which has involved the company refusing to share important details with the family.
“We’ve asked for the names of the agents and the licence of the locksmith but they won’t give them,” she said.
“They just said the complaint was dealt with and closed and to contact a number to get details of how they dealt with the complaint.
“Again we asked for the court they got the fake warrant from, the name of who signed it and the licence and insurance liabilities of the agents and locksmith who broke in.
“They just pass it on because they feel it’s dealt with.”
The energy giant will also be brought before energy minister Graham Stuart to explain itself as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “Forcibly switching customers should only ever be a last resort.”
British Gas has announced it will stop applying for court warrants to enter customers’ homes and fit prepayment meters following reports they had been forced on “vulnerable” customers.
A spokesperson from Centrica said: “We are really concerned about the experience of this customer and we will look into this urgently to understand exactly what’s happened here and we will take all of the appropriate action.
“We’ve made clear we feel extremely let down by this company carrying out warrants on our behalf.”
In a broader statement made today, the company said: “Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority and we have clear processes and policies to ensure we manage customer debt carefully and safely.
“The allegations around our third-party contractor Arvato are unacceptable and we immediately suspended their warrant activity.”