British Gas’s Payzone con just left a disabled person with no power

British Gas logo and a man with his head in his hands
Steve Topple

British Gas has left a disabled woman without gas and electric. The reason? Because of its recent contentious deal with Payzone. But this is only half the story. As the move away from PayPoint top-ups has opened a whole can of worms.

Since the start of the year, British Gas prepayment meter customers must now top-up at Payzones. Before, you could get your dual fuels at PayPoints. The move, slammed by many, meant a 15,000 drop in places people could top up. And one disabled woman’s story sums up the whole, sorry mess.

British Gas: trolling disabled people?

Gemma is from Gwynedd, Wales. She told The Canary she lives with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a chronic, systemic neuroimmune disease that affects at least 250,000 people in the UK. ME patients are often housebound or even bed-bound. They can have little or no quality of life. Gemma also has kidney problems which add to her already high pain levels.

Gemma’s a British Gas prepayment customer. Previously, she could top up at a PayPoint ten minutes walk away from her house, although she told The Canary the walk could sometimes take an hour. This is due to her impairments and illnesses.

But since British Gas changed to Payzones, Gemma’s nearest outlet is eight miles away. She’s had no gas or electric since Friday 24 January. Gemma has no way to top up.

Taking to Twitter

So, she took to Twitter to tell her story:

British Gas’s first response to Gemma? ‘Get a smart meter’:

Since then, Gemma said British Gas sent an engineer out. He topped up her meters. But she says this will only last until Monday. Then, she’ll run out again. It will leave her in the same situation.

British Gas’s response to this is shocking:

Also, Gemma told The Canary that British Gas gave her a list of her nearest Post Offices. But the only one that had Payzone’s set up was the same one that was eight miles away. This writer has experienced the same problem. Of the four Post Offices in my part of south London, only one has a Payzone. It’s the one furthest away.

Dodgy dealings?

So, why would British Gas do such a crap deal with Payzone?

One reason may be money-driven. Prepayment meters don’t make the company money. Whereas people on annual plans, paid by equal monthly direct debits, do.

This is because British Gas estimates their bills for a whole year. As I know from my mother, she invariably pays more to British Gas across the year than she’s actually used. It then takes it off her following year’s bill. Still, this is money the company shouldn’t have. But it will be counted towards its profit margins.

So, by making prepayment meter customer’s lives hell, British Gas is effectively coercing them into going onto annual plans. Cha-ching!

Not the only one…

By the looks of Twitter, Gemma’s story is not unusual.

Lone parents often financially struggle. And 49% of children in lone-parent households live in poverty. But never mind, says British Gas:

It also operates a “priority services register” for older, chronically ill and disabled people. Not that that seems to make a difference with prepayment meters:

And if the company does lure you into getting smart meters, don’t expect a prompt service:

Gemma told The Canary:

I can’t believe they think its acceptable to treat anyone like this. I’m disabled. But this could happen to anyone who is on a low income and just couldn’t afford to get to a Payzone, or the elderly, or the vulnerable. I think all customers this has affected should receive an apology at the very least. Just because British Gas is big company they should not be allowed to do this to anyone.

British Gas says… nothing…

The Canary asked British Gas for comment. But it had not responded at the time of publication. 

But look at the backstory to the new deal. You’ll see there’s more than just the problem of Payzone locations going on.

No money, mo’ problems

When British Gas moved to Payzone, minimum top-ups changed. As MoneySavingExpert reported, PayPoint accepted £1 top-ups. But Payzones have a minimum of £5.

That’s OK, I hear you say! You can pay via credit or debit card! Well, that’s not always the case. My nearest Payzone has a handwritten sign up saying “British Gas customers cash only”.

But if you’ve only got a fiver left in your bank, what happens? As Metro reported, less than 3% of ATMs dispense fivers. So: no cash, no gas and electric.

Burning greed

British Gas’s move has given no thought to chronically ill, disabled and sick people. Nor has it thought about those on social security or living in poverty. With energy companies taking the hit from the cost of smart meters, it’s perhaps no shock that British Gas appears to be penny-pinching.

But hey. At least Centrica (British Gas’s parent company) is happy. It must be, because its CEO got a 44% pay rise in 2018, to £2.4m. Maybe he might like to shove Gemma a few quid, before her electric runs out again due to his company’s greed.

Featured image via British Gas – Wikipedia and robertprax – pixabay

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  • Show Comments
    1. If it wasn’t the British government and British near-monopolies mistreating the poor and disabled in this way…the politically powerless, unrepresented and voiceless…but if an invading army did this they would be rightly called atrocities. At this rate neo-liberalism’s death camps will be operational within 15 years.

    2. British Gas’s Payzone con just left a disabled person,
      with no power.
      ////
      Just like to ask British Gas boss how long it will take you to put the lost money back in your customers account.
      //
      Points! below
      P-1
      Lost money i.e. MONEY put on meters before you changed over to Payzone (top up meter money)
      P-2
      That was lost to some customers of their gas/Elec meter accounts they put on their meters, so loss of power was
      The outcome here in their homes on Gas /Elec supplies
      Over the cold weather time.
      P-3
      On me looking into this mess you at British gas are advising customer to re credit their cash cards or keys now to reboot the meter WHY.
      P-4
      Remembering this ‘true’ fact’ British gas most of your customers already had money on their matter but it was lost on changeover so was their power supply.
      P-5
      So, to British gas boss how long will it take you to return the all the lost energy cash to your customers fully?
      P-6
      At present time your hardworking frontline staff covering your British Boss ASS are saying it will take 5-6-to return their money to their bank account WHY this long (what interested?) are you getting on this withheld cash payment British Gas boss?
      P-7
      Like how much extra cash here was made for the already Big rich Broad member of British Gas out of this change over gimmick not needed in U.K. or over areas like
      /Wales/N/Ireland/Scotland areas.
      P-8
      British Gas Boss why are you using a third party to collectors of cash (your income off pre-paid meter?)
      If you are selling the Gas/Elec to customer, the pre-payment can go directly into your British Gas bank account also you can supply the keys /card yourself
      No need for a third party at all.
      Or is this a possible or could be or maybe a tax scam so our British Govt cannot get hold of your extra income for pre-paid meter yes or no?
      FINALLY!
      I would like to know the truth of where the cash go-too when pre-payment customer have paid for your energy British Gas
      (who’s bank account is it in U.K or offshore or E.U. areas)
      I do hope Tory Govt Minister + Boris read this post and act fast.

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