By JR on Sunday, October 09, 2011
Give a Brit a little bit of power and his/her inner Hitler comes out
British Gas has been accused of using 'bullying tactics' on a 91-year-old to recover an unpaid £5,000 bill - despite him never having had gas at his home.
Sir John Tavare, 91, and his 87-year-old wife Lady Daphne were stunned when a debt collector arrived at their house in Prestbury, Cheshire, and claimed they owed the money. This was because the couple, who have lived there for 30 years, have never used the fuel.
Sir John, a respected businessman who received a knighthood for a campaign to clear up the River Mersey, later called police after thinking he could have been the victim of a scam.
But British Gas admitted there had been a blunder, and eventually apologised to the family by stating the outstanding debt was owed by someone at a property of a 'similar address'.
Nick Tavare, the couple's son, said his parents were deeply disturbed by the experience and accused British Gas of employing 'bullying' tactics without having first made sufficient checks.
He said: 'A man came along to see the gas meter. He refused to show any identification. 'When he was told there was no meter, he began to shout 'If you don't give me access to the house, I will come back with a bailiff in the middle of the night and kick the door down'. Fortunately for my parents, their carer was in and answered the door as well as a guest who also overheard what was said. 'My parents are 91 and 87. If they had been in on their own, who knows what would have happened?'
Sir John, the former chairman of the Mersey Basin Campaign, helped raise funding to clean up the polluted river and attract new developments. He was awarded a CBE for services to industry.
His son added: 'One of the problems was we couldn't speak to anyone in authority to deal with the problem. 'British Gas eventually conceded the house with the alleged debt has the same street name but a different post code - and a completely different name. 'How can it be that they can send debt collectors to a house that has no gas without doing any basic checks first of all?'
British Gas bosses apologised for the mix-up and spokesman Sara Powell-Davies said: 'I am very sorry for any upset and inconvenience. 'We visited their property in error and we have contacted Mr and Mrs Tavare to apologise and to advise them that we have updated our records to make sure this doesn't happen again.'
And debt recovery firm Chase Solutions denied their caller had acted aggressively on the doorstep. John Wolfenden, from the Chorley-based firm, said: 'Our agent visited the address, in connection with an unpaid British Gas account of £5,134.62. 'Our agent, who has been engaged in this work for some years, denies emphatically any allegation that he behaved in a threatening, bullying or intimidatory way. 'Our agent asserts that throughout his conduct was business-like.'
A spokesman for Cheshire Police confirmed they had received a phone call immediately after the visit. He said : 'A call reported that a man who purported to be a debt collector was demanding money in an aggressive manner. 'On investigation it transpired he was a legitimate collector working on behalf of a gas company but had gone to the wrong address.'