MSE News

Anger as British Gas prepayment customers struggle to top up

Scores of British Gas customers have taken to social media, venting their fury at the big six supplier as they were unable to top up their prepayment meters last night – leaving some without heating and electricity.

British Gas told us there was a technical issue between 4pm and 10pm yesterday (Thursday 27 February), meaning customers were unable to access its online services. As a result, prepayment customers could not top up their meters via its app or online.

It said in-store top-ups at Payzone terminals and at Post Office branches were unaffected, and people could still top up over the phone – though users faced long waits for their calls to be answered, and a few people reported difficulties topping up in stores.

The supplier has now confirmed the issue has been resolved, and prepayment users should be able to top up using its app or website as normal.

The technical glitch comes hot on the heels of the supplier's controversial decision to switch its in-store prepayment top-up service from PayPoint to Payzone on 1 January 2020, leaving customers with about 15,000 fewer places to top up. It also faced criticism for upping the minimum top-up from £1 to £5, though it has since reversed that decision.

Regulator Ofgem is currently looking into British Gas's handling of the change from PayPoint to Payzone, saying it has asked the supplier to "explain their decisions and analysis of the impact these actions would have on customers". It will then look at whether it took appropriate steps to identify and manage key risks.

'Absolutely disgusted with your service'

We've seen dozens of complaints from British Gas customers experiencing issues yesterday. Here are a few examples:

I was affected, what can I do?

According to British Gas, the technical issue has been fixed and you should now be able to top up as normal.

If you were hit by last night's outage, and were without gas or electricity, British Gas has said it will look at any claims for compensation on a case-by-case basis, so it's worth getting in touch with the supplier.

We're checking with Ofgem to see if you're entitled to any compensation, but in the meantime you can try complaining directly to British Gas.

Can you save on your prepay energy costs?

While prepay can be a good way to manage how much you spend, the amount you pay per unit of electricity or gas is generally a lot more expensive than paying through a credit meter. See if you can save:

  • Switch to a standard credit meter. If you can, moving off prepayment and onto standard billed or 'credit' meters – where you pay for your energy via direct debit, or cash or cheque – is the best option to save, as you can get much lower gas and electricity tariffs on these meters.

    Right now, the cheapest standard billed meter tariff is £408/year cheaper on typical use than the British Gas prepayment tariff. With British Gas you'll need to pass a credit check to change your meters, though others don't require this, so you could switch provider then change meter – provided you're not currently in debt to your energy firm. See Cheap Prepaid Gas & Electricity for more on how to do this.

  • Switch your prepay tariff. If you can't get – or don't want – credit meters, see if you can switch to a cheaper prepay tariff. British Gas only has one prepayment deal, and that is its standard tariff, costing a typical household £1,199/yr on average, just £1 less than the maximum allowed under the price cap.

    In comparison, Bulb offers the cheapest at £1,044/yr, plus you get £25 MSE dual-fuel cashback and £25 dual-fuel cashback from Bulb if you switch via our Cheap Energy Club.

What does British Gas say?

A spokesperson said: "We're sorry for the technical issues we had yesterday, which meant our customers were unable to access our online and app services for a couple of hours. We were able to fix the problem last night, and have been helping customers who have told us they had difficulties topping up."

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