British Gas Price

This is a very simple trick for existing British Gas customers who might recently have discovered their Direct Debit payment dates have been changed and the amount they’re paying has increased. Like me. This is not a fun-filled article filled with fun but, rather, a handy guide for dealing with British Gas. The clue is in the title which refers to the company and mentions the word "price", both of which should indicate that this particular post has something to do with the supplier of gas by that name and their method of charging customers.

British Gas wrote to me. They stated in their letter:

Further to our previous real and not-at-all fictitious correspondence with you we write to confirm that the amount we’re taking out of your bank with our long and dirty talons is going up by a huge amount and we’re shifting the date forward by a couple of weeks. You know … like we said in our previous correspondence with you. You remember that previous correspondence we had with you where we said all this was going to happen and that if you didn’t call and tell us we’d do it? Yeah, that previous correspondence. We honestly previously corresponded with you. Why would we lie about that? Anyhoo, it’s happening so this is confirming what was previously corresponded in your general direction and this definitely isn’t a legally arse-saving move designed to prove that any changes in the way you pay were genuinely corresponded to you in writing before they happened because that would be pointless seeing as we previously corresponded with you anyway.

Guess what!

Yeah, first I’d heard about it.

Gas price increases. I’d been expecting it. Everything’s going up. Then again … my account was in credit and we were approaching Summer; the fleeting period of the British year when the radiators don’t need to be on and everyone eats food raw or barbecued (which amounts to the same thing usually) so they don’t add to the ambient indoor temperature by using the hobs. The Time Of Not Using The Gas Very Much. That price increase seemed a little … wrong. So I phoned. I’m like that.

British GasBritish Gas Price Increase

So, the first question was why was my gas bill increasing by just under 50 percent when I thought I was in credit and we were approaching The Time Of Not Using The Gas Very Much? The woman on the phone checked and told me that I was still in credit by an amount equivalent to two months gas supply but that based on my previous year’s usage the amount would still need to be increased.

My previous year’s usage. Hmmm. I asked what that was and was told. I pointed out that the amount I allegedly used last year didn’t actually total to what I paid over the same period and also pointed out that what I had paid – the amount less than I had apparently used – had also left me in credit by two months. I didn’t point out that despite the fact that the majority of people can no longer add two numbers together if the digits go beyond the sum of their fingers and toes (around thirteen on average) because of the piss-poor education system in this country it was wrong to simply assume I was one of the mathematically-challenged. But I was thinking it.

Oh, foolish me. You see, British Gas base their prices on a highly accurate system of measurement known as "Estimating". This system assumes that Britain is in the midst of an Ice Age. Mammoths roam the streets. Sledding to work is the only option and is only practised by the filthy rich sled-owners. People watch The Day After Tomorrow and long for the warm scenes depicted. It’s really quite cold all year long in British Gas Land.

After demonstrating that I was not a retard and giving a new, accurate reading much like the one ignored after being read by the man who comes to read the meter or the one ignored after being entered on their website the nice lady agreed that my direct debit payments wouldn’t need to be changed after all. However …

British Gas Direct Debit

Direct Debit is a wonderful system. You set it up and each month on or about the same day the same amount is taken out of your bank without you even having to post-date a cheque and accidentally forget to sign it. It’s simple to set up and simple to stop or change. A phonecall can do it. It takes minutes. Maybe five. Maybe even less than five.

Or twenty thousand, one hundred and sixty. That’s twenty thousand, one hundred and sixty minutes to change a Direct Debit payment if British Gas need to do it. Twenty thousand, one hundred and sixty minutes is fourteen days, and those two weeks are how long it takes the efficient energy supplier to efficiently change Direct Debit payment information with great efficiency.

British Gas told me they needed fourteen days to alter the Direct Debit payment amount and date that they’d already changed and notified me about seven days before it was now due. Subsequently, I heard, I’d have to make one overly large payment but then things would be fine, honest.

I don’t think so girlfriend.

Please imagine that I was wagging my finger, pursing my lips, and shaking my head from side to side as I typed the previous sentence. Otherwise it loses its impact.

I wanted the payment as it was and taken out on the originally agreed-upon date. I made this clear. The British Gas woman told me this was impossible. I further pointed out that had the date of the automated payment not been moved forwards by two weeks without my knowledge or approval in spite of any alleged previous correspondence then I would actually have more than the requisite fourteen days to make the change. Despite some nervous coughing I was still told it simply wasn’t possible. Things had been set in motion, you know. Scribes were scribing the changes. New stone tablets would need to be ordered.

It was time to employ …

The British Gas Trick

"You can’t change the Direct Debit? Hmmm. Okay. Cancel it then. Or I will by calling up my bank. And you can now bill me … Quarterly … and … In Arrears!"

This statement has a remarkable effect. Impossible becomes suddenly possible. Things that couldn’t be entered into computer systems can magically be entered into computer systems. You can actually hear the person on the end of the phone bending over backwards to help all of a sudden. Creaky.

So, there you have it. If you’ve got a problem with your energy supplier and you pay by Direct Debit then why not try threatening the withdrawal of that convenience? It’s convenient for you but – it turns out – it’s very, very convenient for them. They don’t like not having control over your finances. They don’t like not being able to take more money than you owe from your bank. Whether or not they don’t like not using more negatives than seems seemly in sentences is something I don’t know though.

Author: Mark

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  1. Dear lord–fuckwitted gas bastards are universal!

    Would you mind ringing Keyspan for me??

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  2. I thought the best way of dealing with British gas was Beano.

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  3. Babs: Consider them rung. Or wrung. Whichever you’d like.

    Mark: Fart jokes. I’m … so … very … disappointed.

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  4. Nicely done Mark.

    I spent nearly a year trying to get PowerGen to sort out my monthly direct debit – not that I wanted to pay them, but I didn’t want them taking everything I apparently owed in one go and putting my bank account overdrawn. Turns out they hadn’t stopped taking money, they had just stopped admitting they had on my bill so I was accruing an imaginary debt.

    After months of letters and pointless phone calls I finally got a revised statement that showed my direct debits, but re-calculated all my charges for the past year and a half by averaging the usage across the period and charging it all at the current gas price! I nearly went into meltdown, I was paying todays prices for yesterdays gas, despite them having all the meter readings for the period.

    After I threatened to call the Ombudsman in over their utter incompetence I suddenly got a phone call admitting the billing system "was confusing", and the bills were recalculated properly. All seemed well until I got a notification that my current direct debit payment would be increased in December 4712. Whilst in nearly three millennia time I wouldn’t really care about the increase I figured I’d better contact them again…

    …and they stopped my direct debits entirely. Collected nothing for 6 months. More time wasted contacting them and I eventually got a letter telling me that "…because I had not paid for 6 months they were going to increase my direct debit from the beginning of the next month." No apology, in fact it was worded like it was my fault when I’d been telling them for more than a year that their billing system was up the swanny.

    Of course, I’m now with a different supplier (Scottish Power as it happens) and they seem very good. I was almost amused when I got the standard letter (and follow up phone call) from PowerGen asking why I was leaving them.

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  5. yeah, no, definitely: cancel the DD. the whole idea of it is such an insane pisstake it’s not funny. call in meter readings, and notice with amazement, that your liabilities suddenly match your behaviour, not someone else’s model

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