A couple of questions about British Gas defaults from Debt Camel readers in the last few weeks:
I check my credit file monthly. I have just noticed an account that was never on there before from British Gas saying that I owe £179 from 2008. The only thing that is showing is a default issued Jan 2017. I have no recollection of this money. We didn’t move from that address until 2010. What can I do about it as I’ve just started getting my credit rating in a good shape?
I have just been alerted to a default being added to my credit file by British Gas for a property I sold in 2010. They have the default date as January 14th 2017. I don’t believe I owed anything to British Gas in the first place, and even if I did, surely they can’t just default my account almost 7 years later. This has just destroyed my otherwise clean credit file.
Here is another similar one on MoneySavingExpert’s forum: Default RE-ADDED after 6 years.
Defaults shouldn’t re-appear!
The Credit Reference Agencies (Experian, Equifax, Call Credit) delete debts when a default date is six years ago. These debts should not re-appear.
The Information Commissioner’s Office guidelines say that a default should be added when an account is between three and six months in arrears, see What should the default date for a debt be? for details. So a recent date for a British Gas default on an old bill is inaccurate. And recording inaccurate data is in breach of the Data Protection Act Schedule 1 Principle 4.
If you haven’t made any payments towards an electricity or gas bill, the creditor has to take action against you within six years from the date of the bill – after that, the debt is statute barred and you don’t need to pay it. The customers above are saying they know nothing about the alleged debts so it is likely that they are statute barred.
If this has happened to you…
You should email a complaint to British Gas at email@example.com. Here are four possible points to make – you should include all the ones that are relevant to your situation:
- you dispute the debt because you have never heard about it before. Say when you left that property, if you were never sent a bill for this debt etc.
- you have previously informed British Gas that the bill was incorrect. Say what was wrong and when you notified them of this.
- the debt is statute barred because they haven’t taken action within six years. If you are not sure about this, read the link above on statute barred debt and discuss it with National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 before sending your complaint.
- the default on the alleged debt is wrong because it should be back in  according to the ICO guidelines.
If you only found out about the default when you were turned down for credit, you could also ask for some compensation for this – especially if you have had a mortgage application messed up.
How many other people are affected?
Three people reporting similar problems within a few weeks is a lot. There could be many people affected who either don’t yet realise (most people will only find out months or years later when a credit application is refused) or who were upset to find the default but didn’t realise it was wrong and should be removed.
It looks as though British Gas has done something in January 2017 that has generated these problems. When people have asked, they have been told that old defaults are being re-registered or that there are new processes. Has British Gas has done this to try to get some people with old, unenforceable debts to pay them?
Whether it was deliberate or an error, I think they should be dealing with the situation proactively, not waiting until customers complain. They should delete the credit records or correct the default dates as soon as possible and apologise to the affected customers.