I'm furious after British Gas sent 12 men to break into my house over energy bill just weeks after my son died | The Sun

A GRIEVING mum was horrified when 12 men broke down her door to install a prepayment meter – and left her with a £3,000 bill.

Linda Alger was disgusted after British Gas debt collectors hounded her just six weeks after her son died.

The single mum was outraged after the incident and claimed it all stemmed from an error in her gas meter reading.

The 57-year-old told The Sun Online: "They have been bullying me since 2015.

"It started back when my nan was dying, I was staying at her house to take care of her.

"But I noticed a discrepancy in my bills, I was making the same payments and paid upfront but they sent this bill for £600.

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"Every time I tried to call them they weren't very helpful – usually it's no more than £41 – I knew they had made a mistake because I had barely been at my house, because I was looking after my nan.

"I've not had heating on for the last two years out of principle because of what they've done – they have been paid for the last 30 years religiously."

A heartbroken Linda explained her mum's partner had died in January 2021 and her grandmother passed away the following month.

When her son Louis was walking to a relative's house after the funeral for Linda's mum's partner in March, he was tragically killed in a drink-driving accident.

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"We were burying my mum's husband on March 15, my Louis was on the way to my mum's and he got run down.

"My nan had literally just died and then my son," Linda said.

"It was six weeks after we buried my Louis the incident happened.

"They broke into my house and left a piece of paper with £6 written on it."

Warrants give energy firms the legal right to enter homes and install the kit.

Customers must then top up payments to receive gas, or risk their heating being cut off. 

"I told them I don't want a contract with them anymore but they totally just took advantage of me," Linda added.

"I told them my son is dead, will you leave me alone.

"They say I owe them over £3,500 for arrest warrants and call out fees but I'm not paying that – I didn't want them to come out to my house and I don't owe any money – they owe me money.

"I've never said I won't pay for my gas bills but I won't pay for people to break into my house.

"I spoke to the police and they explained the debt was wrong. It's a factitious debt."

Linda explained she has chronic back problems due to a slipped disk and finds it difficult to find work that will accommodate her physical needs.

A British Gas spokesperson said: “Ms Alger stopped paying for her energy bills in February 2019 and has an outstanding balance of £2,927.87 for energy used."

The company maintained the debt was based on accurate readings taken from Linda's meter.

"We have offered Ms Algar help through our support schemes such as the British Gas Energy Support Fund which can provide grants to anyone struggling with their energy costs to help clear debts.”

The energy supplier also offered a broader statement on prepayment warrants: “We’ve made clear we feel extremely let down by the company carrying out warrants on our behalf and have suspended all activity with them.

"We are investigating these cases to understand exactly what’s happened and we will take all of the appropriate action.”

But, Linda continues to dispute British Gas' claims about how much she owes.

This comes as a shocking investigation by The Times uncovered that heartless debt collectors hired by the company expressed "excitement" as they forced pay-as-you-go meters onto the poor.

British Gas has now suspended forced installations until after winter.

Know your rights

Energy watchdog Ofgem says suppliers must offer a range of ways to pay back a debt. One option could be through a prepayment meter.

A supplier can force-fit a prepayment meter by warrant “only after they have taken all reasonable steps to agree payment with you”. It should be a last resort to avoid disconnecting your supply.

Suppliers can’t force-fit a prepayment meter under warrant for people in very vulnerable situations if they don’t won’t one, or charge them for warrant costs on debts.

Nor can they use warrants on people who would find the experience very traumatic

One mum-of-four Jade Olton was with her newborn baby when agents working on behalf of British Gas banged on her door.

The 25-year-old and her partner Jack were struggling to pay energy bills, which had shot up from £54 to £364 per month.

It was minus zero degrees outside, but agents – including an undercover Times reporter – proceeded to enter her property with intention to install the meter.

Elsewhere in the country, Charlene Eastwood thought her home had been burgled in October last year when she found dirt all over her front room and clothes scattered on the floor.

However, the single mum soon realised debt collectors used by British Gas had installed a prepayment meter for her electricity.

The self-employed cleaner lives with her two youngest kids, aged 16 and 20.

The elder boy suffers from epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD and Charlene was concerned what might have happened if he’d been at home when they arrived.

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Before the warrant was issued, Charlene had disputed a bill she would have been unable to afford.

She has been told the total amount she owes has continued to rise but now has no control over the automatic repayments taken when she tops up her meter.

How you can get help if you’re struggling to pay

There are some measures you can take if you're struggling to pay for your energy.

If you fall into debt, you can always approach your supplier to see if they can put you on a repayment plan before putting you on a prepayment meter.

This involves you paying off what you owe in instalments over a set period of time.

If your supplier offers you a repayment plan you don't think you can afford, speak to them again to see if you can negotiate a better deal.

Beyond this, a number of suppliers offer customers grants if they're struggling to pay energy bills.

A grant is a sum of money you don't have to pay back, so it's essentially free cash.

British Gas, Scottish Power, Ovo Energy, E.On, E.On Next, EDF, Octopus Energy and Shell Energy all offer the grants.

Plus, you might be able to get help from charities that can help you pay off your debt.

StepChange is one such charity, and you can call them for free advice on 0800 138 1111

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