Couple get £72,000 power bill in blunder

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A West Yorkshire bar owner has spoken of his anger after being landed with an electricity bill totalling more than £72,000.

Sean and Catherine Coleman, who own Sandbar in Horsforth, Leeds, had been undercharged by a British Gas high consumption meter for five years.

They were horrified when British Gas then sent them a bill for £72,788.04 for outstanding money owed, using the correct readings.

The amount owing has since been revised down to £58,000 but the couple say while their business could have absorbed the extra cost if their bills had been calculated correctly, they cannot afford to pay the vast sum in total and feel they are being penalised for an error not of their making.

Mr Coleman said: “They have admitted the error and I had a call from customer services saying they would like to send someone round to inspect our meter – well that is five years too late.

“They said they would like to negotiate with us but we want to negotiate on our terms.

“My wife has suffered more than me. It has made me very angry but my wife has suffered from anxiety and stress. It has taken up a lot of time and worry. It is an extremely worrying situation to be in for a small business.

“The stock reply we get each time from British Gas is pay up and pay up in full on our terms. They have pulled the shutters down and are not interested.”

A spokesman for British Gas said: “We are very sorry that we did not amend Mr Coleman’s bills to a correct reading more quickly. The problem arose due to an issue with the high consumption meter. We have contacted Mr Coleman to apologise and we are doing what we can to resolve this case quickly.”

The spokesman added: “Smart meters will mean cases like Mr Coleman’s will virtually disappear, as readings will be sent to us direct from the meter each month ensuring accuracy.

“We have already installed over 200,000 smart meters for our business customers. Whilst we are significantly ahead of the industry in ensuring our customers only pay for the energy they use and avoid billing inaccuracies like this, we understand we can do more.”