Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

British Gas branded 'bullying hypocrites' after wrongly charging Bolton businessman £17,000 – 100 times too much

British Gas branded 'bullying hypocrites' after wrongly charging Bolton businessman £17,000 – 100 times too much

| By Lauren Brown

British Gas were condemned as ‘bullying hypocrities’ today for filching almost £17,000 from a Bolton businessman's bank account after officials accidentally overcharged him on his monthly bill.

Oliver Wotherspoon, 32, returned from holiday to find not only the bill on his doormat but was further horrified to find the energy giants had, unbeknown to him, already taken the cash from his savings.

Bumbling officials had mistakenly charged him 100 times more than his usual £150 pound a month bill after an ‘incorrect meter meeting’ but despite the error they refused to give the money back.

Eventually Mr Wotherspoon had to contact a solicitor who demanded the firm – whose current slogan is ‘Looking After Your World’ to return the cash.

It arrived back in Mr Wotherspoon's account after an 11 day legal stand-off.

The incident comes after a row over plans by the HMRC to take money from the accounts of people who owe more than £1,000 pounds in unpaid taxes.

Mr Wotherspoon, from Bolton, Greater Manchester who runs a company which makes play areas for schools and whose brother Alex was a runner up on TV's The Apprentice said: “I've built up my business from scratch through blood sweat and tears and yet a big bully company like British Gas can come along and taken away my cash flow.

“It was blatantly obvious the bill was wrong yet they took my money without of any thought of what such a giant transaction might do. Thankfully I did have some reserve funds to dip into so that money was able to keep things going but we are two weeks behind on jobs.

“If British Gas had held onto the money any longer, I would have had to put everything on hold for considerably longer. It was a massive worry and all of a sudden our guys were panicking that they may not be paid.

“Getting the wrong bill is one thing but the physical taking of the cash from my account is another. As far as I'm concerned British Gas are hypocrites when they keep going on about looking after their customers.

“What they did is an absolute joke, they haven't contacted me once to say sorry.”

The incident occurred on August 4 after Mr Wotherspoon, a father of two, went away to Majorca with his wife Tamsin, 32, expecting his regular £150 bill to be taken out by direct debt.

He added: “We came back all jolly until I opened up the bill from British Gas and initially I just burst out laughing and literally pointed at the figure and said 'god they have got that a bit wrong’."

“Then I saw the direct debit date and saw that it was that day. I logged onto the banking and saw that it had been taken out and immediately I just started to panic."

Mr Wotherspoon contacted British Gas to ask for his money back but was told ‘they weren't authorised to return it’ and that he believed the company to be ‘unapologetic’ for its mistake.

“Every day I was waking up thinking 'they have got almost £17k of my money',” he added.

“I have three employees and I have up to 10 others working for me day in day out so it's a lot of money going out. I need the money back fast.

“I had to slow the process right down, slow down buying materials until I got it back. It was only when I got a solicitor on the case that they started jumping and gave us the money back.

"British Gas hasn't made any effort to contact me. Every time I called them they said they hadn't started the process of the claim. It was an absolute farce, I was just passed from pillar to post.”

Mr Wotherspoon, who has since cancelled his direct debit and will pay by cash in future, added: “British Gas said there was three meters in the workshop and the guy who read them got confused and read them wrong, it was human error – but it left me with an astronomical bill.

“I'm always really careful with my money, the way I built up the business and that's what I pride myself on.

“I'm proud to say I don't have any credit cards, I don't have any debts and I've always had money there to pay my guys and I've worked hard to get here.

“I have got the money back but its been a nightmare and I would like a hand-written apology. I just feel like the 'big boys' are pushing round the small fry."

British Gas refunded the £16,645.57 on August 15.

A spokesman said: “We are very sorry we sent a large bill to Mr Wotherspoon. Unfortunately we applied an incorrect meter reading to his account which meant he received a large bill.

“We should have provided a refund at the time including any associated costs. We will contact Mr Wotherspoon to apologise for distress and inconvenience caused.”

Story via Cavendish Press

Image courtesy of Steven Depolo, with thanks