A SINGLE mum was left without heating while recovering from surgery after British Gas cut off her supply while she was in hospital.
The company wrongly installed a prepayment meter at Aida Ortega Lorenzo’s south London home, and she wasn’t even a customer.
The chef, 41, arrived home from hospital on March 1 to find the house freezing cold and without hot water.
She discovered that a prepayment meter had been fitted without her knowledge or consent – and she didn’t even have a card to top it up.
Aida, who is originally from Spain, said she had recently paid her bill to her supplier, Octopus, so was “frustrated and confused” when she found she had been cut off.
After spotting a British Gas tag on the prepayment meter that had been fitted, she called the firm for help – but they refused to speak to her because she’s not a customer.
Aida said: “I was on morphine because of the surgery, I was feeling dizzy and I wasn’t 100% myself. I didn’t really know what was going on.
“I didn’t understand why British Gas had come to my house, taken my meter without my consent and was now refusing to help me,”
Gas and electricity bills are on the rise and set to jump by £700 for millions of households in two weeks.
A pre-payment meter is usually a more expensive way to pay for electricity, so it wouldn’t be most people’s first choice.
They’re often installed to help households who are in debt to manage their money.
But Aida usually paid her bill to Octopus by direct debit, was on top of her payments and had no plans to switch her meter.
She called British Gas but was told that because she wasn’t a customer, it couldn’t help and she couldn’t even make a formal complaint.
Aida’s 70-year-old dad had flown over from Spain to help with her recovery from surgery and spend time with his three-year-old grandson Aaron.
The family had not seen each other for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Aida’s dad was forced to fly home early after getting a chest infection due to the cold.
That cost around £100 in last minute flights and left Aida alone to look after Aaron just days after surgery.
Aida said: “I was recovering from surgery and I ended up being the one taking care of everything, and it was just too much.
“I was really hoping to spend time with my dad and for my son to see him,” she added.
“My father was so disappointed and he felt so bad and I ended up taking care of both of them. My son was really upset, asking ‘why is grandpa going?’.”
After three days with no heating or hot water, Octopus arranged for an engineer to come to her flat in Colliers Wood, London and fix the meter.
Aida was able to use hot water and heating again on March 3 when Octopus switched her back to a credit meter.
“Octopus has been understanding the whole time but I don’t think it was their problem to be honest,” Aida said.
“I really, believe that British Gas should be saying sorry for the trouble they’ve caused me, rather than saying ‘it’s not our problem, you’re not our customer.”
British Gas has since apologised to Aida and offered her £220 in compensation after being contacted by UK Times.
The company confirmed it accidentally switched the meter outside of her home instead of her upstairs neighbour’s.
A spokesperson said: “The gas meters at this semi-detached property, which is split into four flats, are all located outside.
“We were due to carry out work to the gas meter for the flat upstairs but it appears that there has been some confusion in regards to meter numbers.
“We’ve spoken to Aida to let her know we’re sorry and to reassure her this won’t happen again.
“We’re pleased that she’s accepted our goodwill gesture and considers this matter resolved.”
Octopus declined to comment.
What are your rights if your meter gets switched?
Many gas meters are located outside meaning engineers don’t have to enter your home to make a switch.
That means there could be a similar mix up.
To prevent it happening to you, make sure your meter is clearly marked with your house number.
If you do find that you’ve been cut off, you should call your supplier immediately to find out what has happened.
They should step in to get you reconnected, as Octopus did in Aida’s case.
Make a note of any extra costs you’ve racked up, such as buying and running an electric heater.
You can then make a complaint and apply for compensation.
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