A whistleblower has accused British Gas of boosting its profits by keeping £20 million it owed to former customers because of overestimated bills.
British Gas allegedly used to wait six years before collecting unclaimed credit from customers it could not track down. But speaking to the Observer the whistleblower said British Gas had set up a special team to fast track the process, with the supplier pocketing £20 million in just one year.
The practice is not illegal but the source said British Gas was aware of how it would be seen: “We were briefed about how sensitive this was and there was endless talk about how this would look if it ended up on the front page of a newspaper.”
He added he suspected other suppliers were doing the same.
British Gas said it makes “every effort” to track down any customer who has left the supplier and has credit with it so the money can “immediately” be returned to them. It said in a statement: “If, after every reasonable effort, we are unable to return the credit to them, it is accounted for in our audited accounts as per standard industry processes.”
The firm added: “At British Gas, we are doing more than ever before to track down the owners of these credit balances and would always honour a customer debt if the customer gets in touch.”
The Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint said she was “really shocked” by the allegations: “These companies say they want to rebuild customers’ trust but with practices like this it’s no surprise people are mistrusting of the energy industry.”
She added: “If companies can’t find customers to repay them, they should use this money to keep bills down or help other vulnerable customers, not boost their profits.”