Greedy people destroy trust in others

As posted back in February 2011, see link above, I have been investigating why a scratch on a 10 year old car bumper, no bigger than my thumbnail, first cost an estimated £152 to repair, then finally cost £554 when the bill for the work was received by my car insurance.

Finally, after months of phone calls, I have this morning received the paperwork, invoices and estimate. A quick call to the business who did the repair and all is revealed!

The owner of the car rang me the day after the scratch to inform me that his local garage had quoted him £152 to repair it - this involved, "Painting a quarter of the bumper"
I trusted him, was not prepared to pay it in cash, so instructed my insurance to pay it.
Lie number one:
This quote hasn't been seen or heard of since, if it exists at all?
I questioned the amount at the time as when the scratch happened, the bloke instantly estimated that it would cost "around £150 to put right!"
I told him at the time it was amazing he was only £2 out on his initial guess!

The bloke didn't take it to his local garage to be repaired, instead, he took it 20 miles away, across three towns, to another repair centre, obtaining an estimate.
The estimate came in at £550 according to the repair centre manager today, when I called him. (This matches the written estimate I now have infront of me)

Luckily for me, the accident repair centre keep records of dealings with customers. They informed me today that they advised the bloke, not to put it through the insurance as it would raise costs significantly.
With the damage so minor, the bloke was advised to have a quick repair done locally!
The bloke responded, saying, "Just put it through on insurance I cannot be bothered messing about with third party insurance!"

The repair centre's estimate and work, involved removing the full bumper, removing the spoiler piece at the bottom of the bumper, all the fog lights, etc.
The entire bumper was then resprayed (which they tell me is why paint alone cost £119) and a new spoiler had to be fitted, as it's not possible to refit it after it has been taken off.
This cost another £80, along with another £20 for all new rivets for the spoiler and refitting the bumper back onto the car.
The labour charges for all this work, came in at a staggering £270!

So to summarise, quoted £152 - billed my insurance for £554 - I lose no claims bonus, insurance has to pay out over the odds.
Nobody wins except the bloke who is now swanning around with a shiney new sprayed bumper and spoiler on his 10 year old car!

This, believe it or not, is not what gets on my nerves.
The fact that I was lied to is what is sickening, all for the sake of greed.
On the phone, when the bloke rang up with his imaginary £152 quote for repair, I told him I'd put it through my insurance, to save time for him to have his scratch repaired.
He had the gall to thank me, as "Most people would kick up a fuss and drag the whole thing out. You have been very good about this!"

Taking my goodwill and cooperation and using it to satisfy his own greedy ends is disgusting. If a legal case can be brought against him, it will be done, with or without my insurer's help!

British Gas lying to customers - where's OFGEM?

British gas have finally responded to constant questioning by frugal ways, via the website, via telephoning their billing department and repeated questions on twitter.
The summary of their answers  can be summed up in one sentence, "Our rates are entirely transparent and have been provided to our customers!"

It is my firm belief, that British gas are deliberately complicating the selling/pricing of gas to it's customers, for the sole purpose of increasing their profits.
At best, british gas are confusing the issue, at worst they are misleading customers and telling them outright lies!

Charging different prices for different areas of the country:
It should not take more than 13 weeks to obtain an accurate answer to this question.
British gas customers on pre payment meters, are charged exactly the same "Tier" price regardless of where you are in the country.
I am only told after weeks of questioning, that pre payment meters are unable to vary a tariff price, "We don't have the technology to do this" - I'd wager good money that this is a lie!
It would explain why pre payment customers pay more money for their gas with British gas, than any of British gas' other tariffs, with ALL pre payment customers being charged the maximum cost, so that the tariff price shows the same for all prepay customers, but some will be paying higher premiums than others in different areas, incorporated into their bills

British gas tell us that smart meters cannot charge a tariff rate in any given area, even though the tariff rate shows on everybodies meter (smart meters) and this tariff rate that British gas allege, doesn't show/can't be charged, cannot be varied?

The next British gas lie, comes in the form of a misrepresentation at the point of sale, via their "Price checker" website;
It clearly states, when a customer enters their postcode and requests a price for their pre payment "Tier" price, that, "Prices will vary depending on the area that you live" - clearly false, if the reply from British gas is to be believed?

ALL other tariffs for gas are charged at varying rates.
This could be £40 per year more, it could be £200 a year more, make your own figure up as British gas not only "Don't know" but also don't want to tell you how they arrive at the price they charge for gas.
No British gas staff from call centre staff to senior managers know that prepay prices are not varied, only when I persisted with the question in writing did I get an answer from their back office.

Each kWh for gas is a fixed price, but the amount of gas you get for a kWh varies every week:
You could be on British gas' online tariff, you could be a British gas prepay customer, it matters not, the fact is that the amount of gas you get for one kWH of gas varies EVERY week!

The formula to convert each unit used on your meter (for any tariff) to a kWh (kilowatt per hour) is as follows - M3 (1 unit on your meter) x 1.02264 (The volume conversion factor - VCF) x Calorific value (CV) divided by 3.6 = 1 kWH

The calorific value changes every week - a fact that British gas make it as difficult as possible for customers to find out.
For example, it has taken more than two months of continued questioning to find out that this calorific value can be found on all smart meters (option 16 on your meter menu) - whereas if you have the old imperial meter, you are basically stuffed, as British gas billing staff have no access to an updated figure!
The menu option to read the calorific value from your meter has been conveniently ommitted from the meter's instruction sheet, given out on installation!

The lower the calorific value, the less gas I get per kWH (regardless of what tariff I am on).
Who's to say that the calorific value won't be lower during winter months when I use more gas?
This would explain why I top up £45 per month up until mid october, which then magically increases to £120 - £140 per month until mid February the following year (as it has done for the last three years!)
British gas are unable to explain why this is - I have been told my meter is faulty, a british gas meter fitter has told me to monitor and work out usage each week, as this is a common occurance in winter months.
I have used a 30 odd year old back boiler without a thermostat on it and I have a spanking new combi boiler with thermostat, both use excessive gas during winter months.
I have no gas leaks and had this checked to confirm it is the case, I have had a meter change. It has even been suggested by British gas billing staff that I should, "Turn down the combi boiler's gas supply" - even though a device for this does not exist!

British gas telling lies about how the calorific value is worked out:
On the 7th March 2011, I received in writing the following;
"The calorific value (CV) is the heat given out by the combustion of gas. Calorimeters measure this every 8 minutes.
Gas supplied to a customer's home is passed through a testing station, where the calorimeter measurements are recorded.
There are two stations, located at Elton near Middlesbro and Halton in the east midlands.
Either station can be used to take the measurements, although one can have a higher calorific value than the other, we have provided an undertaking to the Department of Trade and Industry that the lower value will always be used when calculating gas bills.
A British gas representative records the readings given by the calorimeters every Thursday.
These readings are then used to determine the value we use when calculating bills for the following week. This is done by calculating a rolling average, using each of the previous thirteen weeks' lowest recorded values from the calorimeters.

The Department of Trade and Industry checks the accuracy of the calorimeters, evaluates and certifies the readings every two weeks."

* On 6th April 2011 (One month later) I received in writing a totally different account of how the calorific value was arrived at and used in working out gas bills;

"The calorific value changes daily and by region. It is set independantly by the National Grid, so it doesn't matter who the supplier is.
We do not use a national number [constant] as the energy content of gas in Scotland can be different from the energy content of gas in Wales."

Gone are the references to British gas representatives checking the calorimeter readings every week - no mention of the two testing stations used each week for ALL gas calorific value metering?
The first account was confirmed by three billing managers in February and March, the second account I have not heard before until I received the reply in April.
Do the national grid supply the calorific value or do british gas take readings?
Do the calorific values vary by region, or are they arrived at by a national average from the lowest reading of the two testing stations?
If the CV does vary by region (14 regions by the way) are British gas taking readings from other testing stations in each individual region? If so, are these readings being provided to the Department of Trade and Industry?  Are they being verified and checked?
When I checked the calorific value of friends in other regions, their calorific value was identical to mine.

British gas can use either explanation, but NOT BOTH!

British gas are deliberately confusing customers for profit?
* Statements that quote "Unit" prices
On their price checker website, British gas quote a lower "Tier" price - your statement unit price is your tier price plus VAT.
A recent request from Frugal ways has resulted in "Excluding VAT" being added to the tier price results page on British gas' website.
The tier prices quoted, are also given to 3rd party price comparison websites, which do not include VAT
Why not keep it simple and show a unit price with VAT included on the British gas website?

* Statements that show how many kWh of gas were used over the past 12 months and projected usage and cost estimate for the next 12 months.
Why show a graph of the past years gas usage, which is dated from September to September, when each price estimate runs from December to December?
In case British gas hadn't noticed, this leaves a three months gap unaccounted for.

* Statements for pre payment customers which state, "Customers on our standard tariff (quarterly billing) will pay the same price for their gas as pre payment customers" - NOT TRUE!
The tier price quoted on british gas' price checker website for standard tariff customers is different from prepayment tier prices.
In British gas' own words, tier prices vary in ALL 14 billing regions, for every tariff except pre payment - so it cannot physically be the same can it!

* Not a single mention that the energy of gas you get per a kWh varies from week to week. Both on bills and statements, on all tariffs.

Where are OFGEM, consumer focus and the various watchdogs on all this?
You tell me!
Customers are being misled, being fobbed off, etc. These watchdogs and regulators are receiving Millions in funding every year to PROTECT CUSTOMERS!

Either do your job, or close down. As it stands you are no use what so ever!

Car repairs - try your local college!

The days of car body repairs being done at home, by the car owner are sadly long gone. We live in an age where everything car related has to be covered by an insurance premium and backed up by a no claims protection premium.
As most garages charge the same, for the more frugal amongst us, there is little choice between them. Or so it would seem...

Many people do not realise that finding an exact paint match for your car, is relatively cheap and easy to do!

On your engine plate (which can be found around your engine) or on the side of one of your doors, there exists a paint colour code for your car.
If your paint code (which every car has) is particularly hard to find, you can always ring up a dealer in the make of car you have (ford, peugeot, etc.) and quote your registration plate, they will have your paint code on file.

Once armed with this code, you can walk into any Halfords, or other car maintainence shop which mixes paint and pick up either a touch up pen, handy aerosol or even a two and a half litre tin (for use in a spray gun if you have a large area to cover) of paint exactly matching your car's paintwork.
This can also be obtained, from your local college that trains apprentices in car mechanics and car body repair.

Once you have found a college that runs these courses, you have in an instant, given yourself a choice, and by definition, will also open the door to saving more of your hard earned money!
One of the biggest costs to anyone having their car repaired, is labour charges.
On average, labour charges are around £90 per hour.
Factor in the charges that insurance companies pass on to each other, often for relatively low cost claims, if a repair bill comes to less than £1000, we can all save some money, in labour charges, insurance premiums, etc.

A small graze, no bigger than a 50p, on a 10 year old car cost the following to repair;
* Garage quoted £152 to repair, saying they would have to spray a quarter of the bumper
* Bloke got his own insurance to put it through my insurance, who then billed my insurance £552
* For a 50p sized graze, that one sheet of wet and dry would smooth out and a £12 aerosol of exact matched paint (or a touch up pen) and a pound of rubbing compound would have blended in nicely, cost me two years of my no claims bonus, on my insurance premiums next year!

If your car is damaged, your options are limited to premium prices of a car dealership or a general garage, which is costly.
Before you use any of these, use your thrifty head and check with your local colleges, it could save you a small fortune!

How much more are British Gas charging, because of where you live?

How much more are British Gas charging, because of where you live?
Does anyone know how British gas charge by area of UK?

British gas are charging customers differently, depending which area of the UK customers live in.

Billing and meter staff admit to this without exception, british gas' own website states this when a customer checks individual tariff charges. So why does nobody at british gas know exactly how they get to the price they are charging?

Is the area charge decided by the way each unit (kWh) is calculated?
Definately not.

Each customer is charged for gas based on a kilowatt hour (kWh) - the formula for working this out contains four variables, that only differs week to week, on a national average:
M3 (1 metric unit on your meter) x 1.02264 (VCF) x Calorific value (CV) divided by 3.6 = kWh

M3 - This is one unit on your meter and does not vary.
VCF - The volume conversion factor, is an industry constant, to allow for temperature and pressure of gas differing at each household's meter. The figure used in the kWh formula does not change.
CV - The calorific value is worked out by taking two readings each week, from two testing stations, one near Middlesbrough, one near Birmingham.
The lowest reading from either of the two stations is used, added to the previous 12 lowest readings (from the testing stations) and a 13 week average CV is calculated.
I have checked with friends in various areas of the UK, that their calorific value is the same as mine - option 16 on your smart meter - and it is constant, there can be no difference in area here.

Is the different area charge arrived at by different tariff/tier prices?
Definately not!

A third level british gas billing manager attempted to explain that the tier price (a customer's unit price minus VAT) will be different, depending on which area of the country they live in.
With the help of friends, I have checked this also and found it to be constant throughout the UK.
To check this, the billing manager entered his own postcode into british gas' pricing system and was shocked to find that the tier price in Scotland, is the same tier price as Lancashire, is the same price as London, etc, for each tariff.
The only difference in price was obviously for differing tariffs - online only, prepayment, standard billing, etc. - He admitted that he now had absolutely no idea how different charges were arrived at by british gas!

British gas charging different prices depending on areas, is not being calculated in the per unit (kWh) formula, nor is it being calculated in the tier price/tariff pricing structure, so how exactly do british gas arrive at different charges for different areas of the country?

I asked the third level billing manager, could it be the case that british gas don't always charge different prices to people in different areas of the country?
He was adamant that different prices are ALWAYS charged to british gas customers in different areas of the country.
It was suggested by other british gas billing staff that they can only enter a postcode and their computer systems automatically calculate charges for different areas of the UK.

So, if british gas staff and british gas' website are to be believed, energy customers are paying a price for energy that cannot be worked out, is being deliberately hidden from customer's bills and statements and is not being monitored by OFGEM and other so called energy regulators.

I cannot name one other product or business that is allowed to charge a price that cannot be known or calculated, which is hidden from the customer. This is a clear misrepresentation at the point of sale.
We could be paying £40 more than another area of the UK, we could be paying £200 more, we will never know. British gas staff don't know.

This joke of a situation cannot be allowed to continue!

British gas via twitter, have now released their own data, showing what gas/electricity is used per town/city - the first energy company to do so!

It is posted via the Guardian's website: British gas map of customers and energy supplied (Link opens a new browser window)

Sadly this is still not an answer to the question we asked, which is, how does british gas calculate it's different prices per area?

The Financial Ombudsman Service is a failure!

I have currently one case awaiting an ombudsman to pick up and rule upon. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) have had this for well over a year now.

My last communication with them was by telephone, since October 2010 (It's now March 2011), it has been sat on a desk waiting to be looked at. In January 2011 the FOS informed me that they are being burdened with thousands of new cases, that also would have to wait considerable time to be decided upon.

Today I received a letter from the FOS, that stated it was, "To keep you updated about your complaint"

It started by stating the following;

"You maybe aware from press reports that in October 2010 the British Bankers Association (BBA) - on behalf of a number of high street banks - filed papers in the High Court requesting a judicial review of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Financial Ombudsman Service.

The legal challenge relates to the FSA's new payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints handling procedure.

The judicial review took place in the High Court in London during the week beginning Monday 24th January 2011.
It is likely to be a number of weeks before an outcome is known. At this stage I have no more information about the outcome or possible consequences."

The FOS have had my complaint 7 months before any judicial review was put forward, so why don't they apply the existing LAWS and award on this basis?
The letter continues;

"We are continuing to deal with PPI complaints and are now receiving more than 2500 cases each week. Hoever, the approach of some businesses is affecting our ability to process cases and means the rate at which we can settle all complaints is now slowing down.

I realise your complaint has been with us some time and I'm sorry we have not been able to settle your case before now. While I am not able to give you a timeframe at this stage, I'm afraid some cases are likely to take over a year from this point to be resolved - depending on when and how the legal action is concluded."

Another year? Ridiculous!

Still taking on complaints? What is the point?

If businesses are delaying cases being ruled upon, then give them 28 days to defend in writing, if they fail to do this then rule against them?
They will soon stop pushing boundaries to protect their money and reply in a much more speedy fashion?

That the Financial Ombudsman Service is now advising people with complaints that the process and an outcome could take a year, even for cases that have been waiting for over a year already, is a complete farce and not good enough!