British Gas coughs up £2000 for 'wasted time' Self-employed customer receives goodwill payment

06 August 2010

British Gas customer Barry Payling has won a payout of £2000 after he claims he was forced to spend time dealing with problems caused by the energy giant.

Mr Payling kept records of every email and phone call he made after British Gas miscalculated his bills and threatened him with debt collectors. It was when he told British Gas he intended to take it to court that the energy supplier offered him the £2000.

However, while some have hailed this as a breakthrough that could allow any self-employed consumer to claim money back from companies who use up their time, Which? Legal Service says that you'll probably still have an uphill battle on your hands if you're trying to claim for loss of earnings.

Can you claim for loss of earnings?

Which? Legal Service's Joanne Lezemore says: 'It can be very hard to claim any costs for your own time from any company and the courts are very reluctant to order such costs. They also don't award costs for inconvenience suffered.'

When Which? spoke to British Gas it argued that the payment wasn't compensation for lost earnings. A British Gas spokesperson said: 'We made a payment to Mr Payling after the company made some mistakes with his account. However, this was not made for time or loss of earnings - it was a gesture of goodwill.'

Don't suffer in silence

Even if you can't claim money back for bad service, you can vote with your feet. In the Which? Switch energy company satisfaction survey, British Gas only scored 37% - third from bottom, out of nine providers.

For full details of the best and worst energy companies, as voted for by their customers, check out the Which? Switch energy company satisfaction survey You can also use the Which? Switch energy tariff calculator to find out the cheapest gas and electricity providers for you.

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You can compare energy prices and switch to a new gas and electricity supplier on Which? Switch. People who switched with us between 1 October and 31 December 2013 are predicted to save an average of £234 a year on their bills.

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