Why do British Gas and npower both claim they supply us?

My wife and I moved to our new home 18 months ago and there has been confusion over who supplies us with gas. Npower was supplying the property previously. We requested to switch to British Gas and were told there was a problem.

Both npower and British Gas claim they supply us and over the past year both have sent demands for payment and debt collectors’ letters. There appears to be a phantom meter and no one can agree which one is ours. During a telephone conference call last year both argued with each other over whose customer we are.

Ten months ago, npower eventually admitted it was not our supplier, refunded our payments and closed the account. We thought that was the end of it and set up a direct debit with British Gas.

Then npower once again began sending demands and a debt collection threat. It now claims it is our supplier – as does British Gas to whom we pay by direct debit each month. We have lived for more than a year under threat of bailiffs entering our property and are at our wits’ end.

AF, Brighton

The most depressing aspect of your ordeal is that, in the glare of the media spotlight, it took the companies mere hours to clear up the confusion. British Gas acknowledged that, although it has been pocketing your money for the past 10 months, it is not your supplier. And npower discovered that it made a mistake when it asserted that you were not its customer and closed your account.

The fact that both billed you using variations of your address, none of which officially exist, is a clue to the fiasco.

British Gas tells me two meters were registered to the property on the national database, one supplied by npower and the other by itself. It acknowledged this should have been established far sooner and, to show its remorse, is crediting you with a somewhat miserly £60 compensation for the stress and the threats, as well as a refund of all the bills you’ve paid them. Npower has deducted £200 from the amount you owe it during the period you were paying its rival.

It would be good to report that all was now sorted, except that on the letter informing you of the resolution, it still got your address wrong.

If you need help email Anna Tims at or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions


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