Pensioners desert British Gas after being left without heating for a week

She said: ‘I’ve called previously to cancel and there’s a 45-minute waiting list for that too. The cost is £500 a year and I found value until recently.

But we’re old and you buy these contracts as insurance, and when something goes wrong, they can fix it. However, we’ve been out in the cold for nearly a week.”

Their hot water broke last Wednesday. After two visits to a British gas engineer to fix this, she left her radiators cold in the basement last Friday.

Ms Phillips added: “We’ve been trying to get hold of someone since then. M’s husband has a serious heart complaint, he’s very immobile and has a Blue Badge, so I thought they’d pull a finger for that. That’s not what you’re signing up for.”

The exodus came after Sir John Hayes, the former energy secretary, said customer contracts should be reviewed retrospectively to set waiting times to cover breakdowns, with households compensated if they are not met.

HomeCare is not an emergency service.

In an angry exchange with customers on Twitter, British Gas was criticized for claiming that HomeCare “is not an emergency service and has never been marketed as such”.

Earlier this year, British Gas was approached by the Financial Conduct Authority to help improve customer service after it had to apologize to hundreds of thousands of customers over its failure to repair and maintain boilers.

A spokesperson for the energy giant said: “Demand is always high in the winter and we’ve had an additional 350 engineers in place since last year to respond to callouts.

“It has, of course, been very busy with the sudden cold snap. Our engineers are working around the clock to help and we are of course prioritizing vulnerable customers and emergencies.

“So far in December, we’ve dispatched an engineer to 99.4 percent of at-risk customers who reported an emergency outage either the same day or the next day.”

Case study: “My father, 92, has dementia – and lives in the cold -6°C”

A 92-year-old couple from Edinburgh are set to cancel their HomeCare plans after being left for a week without heat or hot water during last week’s big freeze.

Jim and Ruth McCall, both loyal customers of British Gas for 36 years, witnessed a boiler failure on December 13th with the temperature of their house barely above freezing.

Their daughter, Jenny Liddell, told The Telegraph how she called British Gas and told them their ages, but the earliest they were given was December 16th – three days later.

She said: “The webpage and my parents contract say it’s a 24/7 helpline. My dad has dementia and can barely walk. The house is a very big old house and it’s freezing. They don’t have hot water. They can’t wash.

“It was horrible. My mum is basically my dad’s full-time carer, but she’s too cold to think. It was -6C overnight.

“I’m very worried about their health. It’s definitely a risk. The rooms are literally barely above freezing. On the thermometer it’s about 6 degrees Celsius. You can’t live in that.”

Greedy bosses are over-committed and under-resourced.

Mrs. Liddell explained that a British gas engineer was originally scheduled to arrive between 12 noon and 6 pm on 16 December, but showed up at 9 pm without the correct part. The engineers made two more visits on December 18, but they came without the correct parts. The problem was finally resolved on Monday.

“I don’t have a quarrel with the engineers,” she said. “Greedy bosses are the ones who over-commit, under-resource and leave employees to deal with angry and frustrated customers.

“What pissed me off was seeing on Facebook that they were advertising 50 percent off for the first three months to cover the boiler, but I didn’t like their tone on Twitter that ‘the line is not emergency service’ — I told them to stop digging.”

Ms Liddell added: “I will definitely write a letter of complaint and suggest compensation for the electric bill for using the electric heaters all week. What bothers me the most is when they don’t apologize. They try to defend themselves. There is no defence.”

We’ll probably cancel HomeCare membership now. The problem is, you don’t want to bother with the apple cart. But yes, looking into the future, we need to find someone we can count on. We have completely lost faith in British Gas.”

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