A Corkman was overcharged by Bord Gáis for his gas usage by more than €13,000 over the last two years, although the man’s small house was virtually empty for the entire period.
John Cremin was actually asked by a meter installer if he had been contacted by gardaí, as the usage recorded was of a volume usually utilised by cannabis dealers to grow their product.
It emerged that the homeowner had been out of the country for much of the last five years working in Britain, Germany, Norway, and Canada.
While away, his house in Douglas was empty and a cleaning lady would send in meter readings for the token amount of gas being used.
However, instead of submitting the three black-and-white digits, she inadvertently included a fourth number, a red digit. As a result, Mr Cremin’s last bill had a reading of 7156 when it should have been 715.
He said he first became aware of the over-billing two years ago and it continued on until recently.
“I got in contact with them and said how could I be paying €1,800-€2,000 for a period of gas when I am not there? I didn’t know,” he said. “I live alone and there are seven or eight radiators in the house and a gas cooker... Then they put me on a restaurant rate because I was using so much gas. They would not listen to me. They said they could not get into the house to verify what was there.”
Two months ago, he came back to Ireland and got a new gas boiler installed.
“I wrote to them saying I wasn’t paying any more bills because they had taken too much money off me. They came around and put the meter in immediately.”
That enabled Bord Gáis to get the proper reading.
“One of the guys putting in the meter said he was surprised the gardaí were not out. He said people use that amount of gas growing drugs. He said it was physically impossible for me to use that amount of gas and that the entire estate would not use that amount.”
Mr Cremin said Bord Gáis acknowledged the mistake and, on his last bill, dated October 20, there was a figure of €13,433.13 with CR for credit written beside it. However, since then he has been looking for the money to be returned.
He phoned Bord Gáis 10 times in the last two weeks, and got the impression at one point that the money owed was being used as a credit note which would reduce as he used up gas.
Yesterday, after the firm was contacted by the Irish Examiner, he got a call from Bord Gáis saying he would get his money by Friday.
Last night a company spokesman said: “Bord Gáis Energy, having spoken directly with the customer involved, has apologised for the delay in relation to this matter and is urgently processing a refund to the customers bank account as requested by the customer.”
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