British Gas to pay £9.5m penalty for business customer billing failures


800px-3D_Judges_GavelBritish Gas has been hit with a £9.5m penalty for billing and complaints failures by regulator Ofgem.

Tens of thousands of business customers received inaccurate and late bills following the supplier implementing a new billing system in 2014. British Gas also failed to adequately handle the resulting wave of complaints, said Ofgem.

British Gas acknowledged the problem in December 2014. Two-years later, Ofgem has struck a deal with the supplier that will see micro-businesses receiving some of the redress payment, with the remainder going to the Money Advice Trust charity.

“We invested in a new billing system so we could improve the service we provide to our business customers. At the time, this was a major undertaking – merging nearly 100 different systems into one. It didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked so we reported this to Ofgem as a priority,” said Gab Barbaro, managing director of British Gas Business.

“We’ve worked hard to put this right since and Ofgem has acknowledged this today. We’ve restored a very good quality of customer service, and more and more of our customers are going online to use the new billing system. I’d like to apologise to our business customers for any inconvenience caused when we were implementing the system.”
New billing and customer service systems have a habit of causing problems for energy suppliers. British Gas claimed it lost hundreds of thousands of customers after its 2006 ‘Project Jupiter’ system upgrade also progressed less smoothly than anticipated. The firm then locked horns with Accenture in a lengthy court battle over the resulting issues.
More recently Npower was hit with a large fine for similar problems, followed by ScottishPower last year. In 2012 EDF was fined £3m for complaints handling failures following the implementation of a new CRM system.
Several smaller business energy suppliers are currently upgrading their CRM and billing systems.

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