British Gas has apologised, after intervention by the Publican's Morning Advertiser, for charging a licensee £20,000 after telling him that his pub "looked like it used a lot of electricity".
Stuart Curtis of the Quayside in Whitstable, Kent, decided to switch to British Gas for electricity in 2009, but then received an estimated £6,000 bill in 2010. He called the firm straightaway and was told it was a mistake. British Gas told him that it would stop taking payments, but fearing he would fall behind, Curtis set up a £400 monthly direct debit.
In December 2010, he received a letter trying to change the direct debit to £1,500 per month. He called British Gas again and was told that it was an error and agreed to a £500 per month direct debit.
In May 2011, he received another call to say he owed over £12,000. "We were told that this had been worked out from our original meter reading, which we had been previously told had been deleted. They also said that I should be paying £900 per month but as a 'favour' they would use the estimated readings and charge us £6,500."
Curtis then requested this in writing, but never received it.
After feeling pressurised into entering a new two-year contract, Curtis told British Gas that he was going to report his complaints to Ofgem.
He then got another call in July saying he owed £20,000. "The man I spoke to said I had paid £8,000 of this and he wanted the difference. Then he completely topped off the whole sorry saga by telling me that he'd had a look at my pub on the internet and it looked like it used a lot of electricity."
A British Gas spokesman said: "We have now successfully resolved Mr Curtis's complex case which involved both billing and metering issues. It has taken much longer to sort out than we would have liked.
"We have said sorry to Mr Curtis and his partner, ensured the correct billing process is now in place and have agreed an appropriate financial solution."