Millions of British Gas customers in billing error

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British Gas

Ofgem has announced that between 2006 and 2011 British Gas failed to 'round down' one aspect of its residential bills, meaning that millions may have paid more than the regulations allow in this area. British Gas, meanwhile is arguing that has not overcharged, and that no-one has missed out.

However, they have made a donation to end the matter - which you may be able to benefit from.

Issue

The problem related to the 'calorific value', which is the heat in the gas that the costumer uses. It appears on bills because it varies around the country - and it indicates the potency of the gas. Those who get a high calorific value will get more energy from the gas, so this is reflected in the price.

Ofgem says that suppliers should use one decimal place when calculating the calorific value of the gas on bills - and 'round down'. However, for the five year period, British Gas used four decimal places - which it told AOL reflected how the gas was bought.

An Ofgem spokesperson said in a statement: "British Gas' interpretation of the regulations, which cover the way thermal energy in gas, known as calorific value, is calculated, meant that although customers didn't pay for energy they did not receive, they paid more than regulations allow."

British Gas told AOL: "While we believe we were operating in line with the regulations, we accept there was an alternative interpretation."

However, it is emphasising that no customers were out of pocket as a result. It added that if it had been forced to round down prices, it would have recouped the money through higher overall prices, so no-one paid any more than they would have done if it had charged differently for the calorific value.

Ofgem accepts that: "The overall impact on customers is unclear as British Gas' interpretation of the regulations may have offset the need for them to adjust prices."

You may still benefit

The question over whether anyone actually lost out at all means that Ofgem is not demanding British Gas repays any money. Instead, British Gas has agreed to pay £10 million into The British Gas Energy Trust.

A spokesperson told AOL that it was intended to 'draw a line' under the issue. Both Ofgem and British Gas are keen to emphasise that this isn't a fine, it's a voluntary donation to settle the matter - without any admission of any wrongdoing. Ofgem said: "This is why Ofgem welcomes British Gas' decision to pay £10 million into its energy trust.'

The donation means that you may still be able to benefit from the move. The trust helps those who are struggling with their bills in a number of ways. It offers debt and welfare advice; it recommends people for free energy efficiency measures; it can help people fund the purchase of household goods and heating systems; and it can clear outstanding bills where there is real hardship.

You don't have to be a British Gas customer to benefit - and it doesn't have to be gas and electricity bills you're struggling with - it can help with any utility bill.

Ofgem has written to consumer groups, such as Citizens Advice, urging them to take advantage of this payment, so if you approach them for help, they may be able access funding through the trust. Alternatively, consumers can approach British Gas Energy Trust direct.

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