British Gas has a new approach to HomeCare repairs – do it yourself

I was asked to organise any work needed myself, but then it charged a call-out/excess fee

Last modified on Mon 17 May 2021 02.01 EDT

My gas boiler stopped working in the middle of April, during a very cold spell. As I have a British Gas HomeCare policy, for which I pay £269 a year, I logged on to the website and tried to book an appointment, indicating that we had no hot water or heating.

The first available option was more than a month away. The British Gas chat service confirmed this, but told me that if I could arrange my own repairs, I would be refunded.

For the next week I called around and, eventually, got someone to look at the system.

The repair was a replacement circuit board, which I ordered myself, and it was fitted. Boiler working again, I sent off the receipts totalling £463 and the amount was refunded a week later – but less the £60 callout charge/excess my policy has.

Given I had done all the work, I felt that charging the excess was unfair. After a long discussion, it agreed an ex-gratia payment of £20. But I want to warn other British Gas customers that their HomeCare agreements at the moment are not quite what they might expect.

AK, Surrey

Back in March, British Gas took the highly controversial step of telling all ofits engineers that they would be fired unless they agreed to new, and worse terms and conditions.

More than 450 chose not to and, as a result, lost their jobs in April. Your letter suggests that the company may no longer have enough staff to meet its responsibilities to customers who pay handsomely to insure their boilers against breakdown.

Leaving people to face a month without heating in the coldest April for years is patently unacceptable, and you quite rightly ask what would have happened had you been a vulnerable customer, unable to resolve the matter yourself.

I have long argued that these policies are poor value, particularly as British Gas has increased the prices so much in recent years, and this letter only confirms that. Service standards were hardly great before, with missed annual boiler services a repeated complaint.

I asked the company about your case and it has apologised and refunded the rest of the excess, plus a further £10.

It says that despite a lack of engineers during strike action that followed its announcement to staff, it has been prioritising vulnerable customers and is getting to 97% of them within 24 hours.

Faced with a HomeCare renewal in the coming months, I think I’d be exploring the other options – with self-insuring at the top of the list.

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