VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Burning fury at British Gas chiefs for abandoning Homecare customers in the pandemic
A broken boiler is stressful enough at the best of times – never mind during a pandemic.
You can’t pop to a friend or relative’s house for a shower or to do your washing. And there is nowhere to seek refuge from the still chilly weather.
So the prospect of going weeks without hot water or heating at this time is just miserable – and for the elderly and vulnerable, it’s downright dangerous.
Yet that’s exactly what British Gas HomeCare customers have faced. Around 3.5million people pay hundreds of pounds a year for the energy giant’s boiler and heating insurance.
Left in the cold: Around 3.5million people pay hundreds of pounds a year for British Gas Homecare boiler and heating insurance
Its main selling point is the peace of mind it offers. Or, as its website boasts: ‘The boiler’s the heart of your home. Keep it covered with HomeCare and we’ll be there when you need us’.
The reality couldn’t be more different. Last week Money Mail exposed how thousands of customers are stuck in a queue for repairs after workers went on strike earlier this year.
Since then we have been flooded with emails and letters from readers left in desperate situations.
British Gas had assured us that, despite the delays, it was reaching vulnerable customers on the same day. But as we report today, this hasn’t always happened.
One 97-year-old, who lives on her own and has a heart condition, was initially told she must wait three weeks for an engineer after her boiler broke.
Others say they cannot even get through on the phone to make an appointment, or are repeatedly let down by no-show engineers.
So it’s little wonder many customers are now threatening to cancel their policies. This cover is not cheap, with the most comprehensive policy costing upwards of £270 a year.
And that’s just if you are a new joiner. Annual price hikes can mean loyal customers end up paying four times as much over time.
For many people, sticking the same sum in a savings account and finding a reliable local tradesman to keep on speed dial might be a more cost-effective option.
In the meantime, British Gas must put in place a proper compensation plan for customers it has let down.
This means footing the bill for emergency repairs its engineers failed to carry out, and offering partial refunds to customers who did not get their annual boiler service as promised.
Given the energy giant’s services arm pocketed a healthy £256million last year, it is the very least it could do.
Any Milk & More customer without a computer or smartphone will see deliveries cancelled
Milk & More’s decision to force its customers online is a ruthless betrayal. Many have had the same milkman for decades and struggle to get to the shops.
To refuse cash and cheque payments is bad enough — but now customers aren’t even allowed to pay by direct debit.
Anyone who doesn’t have a computer or smartphone will see their deliveries cancelled from April 24.
The firm claims the cost-cutting measure will future-proof jobs. But younger consumers can be fickle.
And with many online grocery stores now offering deliveries within half an hour of booking, perhaps Milk & More should think twice before turning its back on valuable loyal customers.
Our investigation exposes just how easy it is for fraudsters to advertise scam investments on Google.
What’s so baffling is that Google did raise concerns about our fake advert — but for the wrong reason.
So despite our website including all the hallmarks of a scam, it was still allowed to go live. This is just not good enough.
As I said two weeks ago, it’s time tech firms were forced to clean up their act.
After buying cheery daffodils from Sainsburys last week, I was amused to note the ‘Do not eat’ instruction on the tag.
There was even an illustration of a knife and fork with a red cross through them. I’d love to know what led to this being deemed necessary.
What are the silliest instructions you’ve spotted when shopping?