British Gas sent a £780 bill to a woman who had passed away six months earlier. It was the latest in a series of blunders, and her son Stuart Bower had finally had enough - issuing a hilarious response to the company.
Retired police officer Stuart, from Hove, had done all the right things after his mother's death: sending a death certificate and grant of probate to the energy company in order to close the account. The company sent a final bill - and refunded an overpayment of over £1,000.
However, something had obviously gone awry at the firm, because at the same time, it issued a bill for £0.00 for gas used after the day she died. Then, two weeks later, it sent out a bill for £787.10 it claimed she had used after her death.
Stuart said if his mother was still alive, then getting a bill of this magnitude would have given her a heart attack. He told the Brighton and Hove Argus: "Obviously I wrote to British Gas. I did not mince my words. I asked what kind of fools they have working there. I referred it to my local MP."
The letter said: "What concerns me, is that had my mother come back to life; which you clearly think she has, she would be 95 years old and in no condition to cope with such stupidity and incompetence from your company".
The Mirror reported that British Gas had apologised for the mistake, and said it had offered a gesture of goodwill.
The dead parrot reply was a master-stroke, that got enough attention to resolve the issue. It's not the first time someone has risen to the challenge when faced with unreasonable hounding of a deceased relative.
In August last year, Clare-Louise Quilty was receiving threatening letters from a debt collector to her father - who had died six years earlier. She wrote to them, enclosing a photo of her by her father's grave, and saying: "Unfortunately my father is no longer contactable at the address in Redcastle, Co. Donegal, as he has actually been residing in Dunboyne Cemetery since January 2008. Attached is a photo of me visiting him at his most recent residence just last week. I don't think he'll be moving elsewhere in the foreseeable future so please feel free to forward any further correspondence there, although I'm not too sure of the quality of his penmanship these days so please be patient when awaiting your response."
Jim Boyden took a more straightforward approach when he received a bill for his deceased father-in-law from Virgin Media. The bill included a £63.89 charge - along with the comment "D.D Denied-Payer deceased" - which referred to the fact the bank had refused the direct debit after the customer had died.
Underneath this, Virgin Media had added a "late payment charge" of £10. Jim simply posted the bill on Virgin's Facebook page, watched it go viral, and was then contacted by Virgin - keen to sort the problem out.