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Raw Deal: Couple baffled by gas bill after fire had closed building for a year

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When the power at Shirley Burr’s flat was turned off for a year after a fire at the property, she didn’t expected to receive gas bills.

Shirley and husband Sandy own a first-floor apartment in Aberdeen which they rent out.

However, drama ensued in May last year when a blaze broke out at the building. Four people, including the couple’s tenants, were rescued after the fire started in the basement below an ice cream shop and spread upwards through the building.

“I believe there had been an electrical fault with a freezer,” Shirley, 66, said. “Thankfully, our tenants were safe but the whole place was left in a real mess by smoke damage

“The gas was turned off in all the flats in the building, therefore no gas was entering the property.”

Shirley, from nearby Insch, said the flat could not be rented for a year while other owners in the building decided on repairs.

But in May this year she had the supply turned back on by British Gas when a relative wanted to move into the property.

“There was a debt on the gas meter of about £130,” Shirley said. “I couldn’t understand how this could even be possible as it is a pay as you go meter.

“In any case, the whole supply had been off for 12 months.”

Shirley telephoned British Gas and was told the debt would be cleared. However, she kept receiving requests for payment.

“I kept telling them it was impossible to run up a debt on a pay as you go meter, particularly one that had been switched off for such a long time,” she said.

“I would be told that this had been sorted but then the requests for payment kept on coming.

“I eventually paid the outstanding amount on the pre-pay card by topping it up until the balance returned to zero. I thought I would be reimbursed when the company realised it was an error but no one seemed to want to listen. The hassle was unreal.”

In frustration, Shirley wrote to Raw Deal and we contacted the company on her behalf.

The energy giant moved quickly to apologise for the mistake, wiped the debt and refunded Shirley her money.

British Gas said: “Due to the supply property being vacant for 12 months before, our records show there was an outstanding balance made up of standing charges for the address that had been incorrectly applied.

“We’ve spoken to Mrs Burr, apologised for the mix-up and confirmed to her there is no outstanding balance and she has nothing to pay.

“Mrs Burr now has the contact details for the customer manager in our head office should she need anything else.”

Shirley is relieved the matter has been resolved but has switched to another energy supplier. She said: “I have received the money back from British Gas which they owed me and the bills have stopped. A big thanks to Raw Deal.”