British Gas scraps 'punitive' late payment fee

07 March 2007
British Gas has abandoned plans to fine customers who pay bills late £5 in a move it hopes will boost its credit with consumers and set it apart from competitors in the gas war.

Energywatch had described the fines, which were due to come into effect from March 1st, as "punitive".

The industry watchdog's campaigns manager Alan Scorer slammed British Gas for proposing the fee, saying: "This is a bit rich coming from the largest player in an industry that struggles to issue accurate bills on time."

In spite of the company's protestations that the fines were needed to cover the cost of handling late payments and assurances that vulnerable customers would not be unfairly hit, consumer groups also opposed the fee.

The incoming managing director, Phil Bentley, said: "I've decided to scrap it."

But he claimed late payments cost the company £20 million a year and added that the cost "in effect places a burden on those customers who do pay their bills on time".

The implication, clearly, is that the company will pass on the costs of dealing with late payments to all its customers, an admission hardly likely to win customers back.

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