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British Gas boiler parts 'three times cheaper' at B&Q

British Gas has been accused of over-charging its customers for boiler parts after a Scottish pensioner found the materials were three times cheaper on B&Q’s website.

Robert Halbert, an octogenarian from Glasgow, had a new boiler installed and was quoted £390.16 by British Gas engineers for four essential parts, such as a length of copper pipe and a wireless thermostat.

However Mr Halbert looked on the website of DIY retailer B&Q and found the same products for £125.73, a saving of almost £265.

Mr Halbert also claimed that Scottish Gas – an arm of British Gas – used “creative pricing” when it quoted for the installation work by bundling together the cost of parts and labour. This way, Mr Halbert was unable to establish precisely what he was being asked to pay for.

He said he was particularly suspicious when the price quotes for individual bits of work ended in apparently random numbers of pence.

“That to me brings to mind creative pricing, which is to the detriment of the customer and gain to the vendor,” he told British Gas in a letter.

Mr Halbert, who had a career as a service manager at vacuum company Hoover, said that he and his wife returned to Scottish Gas as customers from Scottish Hydro. However he argued that the move was far from satisfactory.

“Our return to British Gas has cost us dearly, promises of a trouble-free changeover have not taken place,” he said.

In his correspondence with British Gas Mr Halbert quoted the Scottish proverb ‘Every mickle maks a muckle’, meaning that many small amounts of money accumulate to make a large amount.

After a lengthy battle with British Gas, Mr Halbert received some compensation from the company.

A British Gas spokesman said: “We apologise for any inconvenience the installation has caused. We have worked hard to address the concerns Mr Halbert raised which have now been addressed.”

However Tom Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, expressed surprise at British Gas’s pricing policies.

“It is alarming that whilst British Gas claim they are seeking to restore trust amongst their customers, it turns out they are charging over the odds for equipment they recommend to their customers.

“It simply does not stack up that British Gas pay more for parts then the general public buying the same products at their local DIY store,” said Mr Greatrex.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Phil Bentley, British Gas’s managing director, vigorously defended the company’s prices and its service agreements with customers.

Mr Bentley said: “I have no problems with the price we charge for boilers. They come with a seven-year guarantee. If you buy a boiler at a DIY store, and get a plumber to put it in, who are you going to call when it doesn’t work?

“We will come out in 20 minutes. We will always be there, we will come out on Christmas Day? Who is going to go out on Christmas Day fixing boilers? No-one but us.”

Source : James Hall - The Telegraph

24 March 2012
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