TONY HETHERINGTON: Why must I pay for gas up front?

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

D.C. writes: British Gas refuses to switch me from a prepayment gas meter to a credit meter. 

I own a property that used to be tenanted, but I am now the owner-occupier. 

British Gas says I have failed its credit check, yet until recently I was a British Gas customer at my previous address where I had a credit meter and never missed a payment.

Tony Hetherington replies: British Gas has been at the centre of huge controversy recently because of its policy of compelling customers to use prepayment meters which charge more than credit meters. Engineers have even forced entry to customers’ homes to switch meters.

Your own problem sheds new light on this. You were a customer at your previous address, with no problems over bill payments. Yet as soon as you moved into your new home, British Gas mysteriously decided you were too risky to be allowed a credit meter, so it left the existing prepayment meter in place. 

Controversial: Prepayment gas meters were forcibly installed

You contacted the Experian credit agency, which told you that your credit status was excellent. But when you informed British Gas, you were told you had to wait three months before it would allow you to reapply for a credit meter. Well, you waited three months, paying the higher prices it charged, and then you reapplied. The answer from British Gas: ‘You have failed our credit check.’

As if this was not bad enough, your electricity supplier is also British Gas, and your electricity account was £190 in credit. You asked for some of this to be transferred to your gas account, but the company refused. You told me: ‘British Gas is profiteering during the energy crisis by not transferring eligible customers on to credit meters, and by holding on to large credits.’ It is hard to disagree.

I asked British Gas to look into this, and staff admitted they had failed to update their records to show that the property was no longer tenanted. And it was quite simply false to say that you had failed credit checks, unless British Gas automatically regards all tenants as failing them, which I hope is not the case.

British Gas has not explained why it told you that you failed its checks. One official did tell me: ‘This was an administration error and we have contacted Mr C to say sorry, and have assured him that we will be completing his request as soon as possible.’

I asked for an assurance that British Gas would not hang on to the extra charges it applied while it wrongly inflicted the prepayment meter on you. It has now moved quickly to switch you to credit metering, and you are also getting £50 to make up for the higher bills you faced.

My parcel is lost… but I can’t get through to DPD

M.M. writes: On December 15, I sent a parcel of Christmas gifts by DPD Local. 

It was supposed to be delivered to my son and his family by December 19 but it never arrived, so they missed out on their presents, which was particularly upsetting for my grandson.

Tony Hetherington replies: You used the DPD Local service and have a receipt from the local shop which acts as a drop-off point. Staff there assured you the parcel was collected by DPD. You even insured the gifts for £150, and tried very hard to sort this out with DPD.

You telephoned, and after an hour on hold you were told you had to make your complaint online. You tried to use DPD’s webchat, but gave up after three hours in an online queue.

Missing: DPD was supposed to deliver a parcel by December 19 but it never arrived

Missing: DPD was supposed to deliver a parcel by December 19 but it never arrived

And when you did manage to make your complaint, you followed up with a fresh phone call but DPD’s technology recognised your number and played you an automated response saying it was still awaiting your parcel. Weeks after you complained, DPD’s website still showed your missing parcel was ‘waiting for courier’.

I asked DPD to explain this, and a couple of days later DPD emailed you, apologising for the delay in replying to your claim. It told you: ‘Some claims may take a little longer due to the value’.

DPD offered to transfer £150 to your bank account within several days. But it did not include the £6 you paid DPD in the first place, so in effect you would have paid to have your parcel lost. I protested, and DPD has now sent £156 to your bank account.

Debt stalls home swap

Ms M.P. writes: My late husband left the house to me in his will. The house is mortgage-free. 

However, six years after his passing, Gamlins Solicitors who are the executors have still not transferred the property into my name. 

I want this resolved so I can make a proper will myself.

Stalemate: Estate cannot be finalised nor the house transferred until DWP debt is settled

Stalemate: Estate cannot be finalised nor the house transferred until DWP debt is settled

Tony Hetherington replies: I contacted North Wales solicitors Gamlins, and they quickly explained the problem. They told me: ‘Despite our best endeavours, we are unable to finalise the transfer of the property into Ms P’s name as there remains a debt owed by the deceased.’

Your late husband owed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about £8,000. This is now the responsibility of the executors, and the estate cannot be finalised nor the house transferred until that debt is settled. You have been paying the DWP £14 a month. It could register a charge against the property and allow it to be put into your name, but you would still not be able to leave it to your own beneficiaries without the debt being paid.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.