The advert begins with a dad pointing a torch at a boiler and filling a scorching water bottle for his baby.
Then a voiceover begins: ‘Boiler taking part in up? Dreading waking as much as a freezing dwelling and an sudden restore invoice? Not once you’re coated by British Fuel HomeCare.’
However the vitality large’s newest TV marketing campaign provides little consolation to the lots of of 1000’s of consumers being pressured to attend weeks for repairs.
Cash Mail has heard from dozens of livid owners who pay round £300 a yr for the corporate’s HomeCare plan.
Deserted: British Fuel HomeCare insurance coverage ought to cowl the price of boiler and thermostat repairs and annual providers. But prospects are struggling to get an appointment
There are greater than 3.5million policyholders, and the insurance coverage ought to cowl the price of boiler and thermostat repairs and annual providers.
You can too pay further to cowl your private home electrics, drains and plumbing.
But many purchasers have been advised they have to wait weeks for an appointment, leaving some households with out heating and scorching water.
Others say they cannot get by means of on the cellphone and are repeatedly let down when engineers do not flip up as promised. And a few have gone almost two years with out an annual boiler service.
British Fuel says it needed to cancel all however important jobs within the third nationwide lockdown, together with most boiler providers.
However specialists accuse it of utilizing Covid as an excuse. They are saying the true cause for the delays is current strike motion.
The union GMB claims at the very least 170,000 properties are caught in a queue for repairs after 1000’s of employees downed instruments earlier this yr. British Fuel disputes this determine.
Regardless of the backlog, British Fuel is providing new HomeCare prospects reward playing cards value as much as £75 in the event that they join earlier than Might 10.
Now specialists say households caught out by delays might be in line for hefty payouts.
British Fuel guarantees repairs or visits for HomeCare prospects inside a ‘cheap time’ until one thing ‘past [its] management makes that unimaginable’.
However shopper legislation specialist Gary Rycroft says the present lengthy delays might pave the best way for compensation claims probably value lots of of kilos every.
‘For anybody with out scorching water or heating, I’d say something greater than per week is under no circumstances an affordable time to attend for repairs,’ he says. ‘And for susceptible folks such because the aged, that timeframe needs to be much less.
‘The present strike by engineers places British Fuel in potential breach of its personal contract, since you might say the right human assets administration of its workforce may be very a lot a matter that needs to be inside its management.’
The union GMB claims at the very least 170,000 properties are caught in a queue for repairs after 1000’s of employees downed instruments earlier this yr. British Fuel disputes this determine
Mr Rycroft says prospects might take their instances to the Monetary Ombudsman Service and declare a yr’s refund, plus the price of hiring different engineers, and probably extra for inconvenience.
British Fuel’s phrases additionally state that it might reschedule repairs and visits if non-essential journey is banned beneath authorities tips.
However Mr Rycroft, a accomplice at Joseph A. Jones & Co, says lockdown guidelines should not cease engineers doing their jobs, as they’re key employees.
Baroness Ros Altmann’s mom needed to name British Fuel about her boiler on Monday. Though she has a HomeCare plan, the 89-year-old was advised she must wait 4 weeks for an engineer.
‘My mom has been paying for this plan for years,’ says the previous pensions minister. ‘On the very least, British Fuel wants to supply refunds to prospects who’re unable to learn from their cowl.’
In late January, retired constructing supervisor Peter Auger, from Windsor, awoke with out scorching water or heating.
The 67-year-old known as British Fuel HomeCare, however was met with ‘infinite’ voicemails saying the pandemic meant that employees had been unable to talk to him.
Peter and his spouse Anne, 63, had paid £17.50 a month since September 2020, and earlier than that had been on an excellent costlier British Fuel plan for a number of years.
Finally they had been advised the earliest an engineer might come out can be on February 16, leaving them with out heating for greater than three weeks.
The couple needed to fork out £160 on the day, when an engineer advised them their timer wanted changing. He put in place a brief resolution however mentioned British Fuel would wish to exchange it.
Regardless of dozens of cellphone calls and lots of promised appointments that didn’t go forward, the couple are nonetheless ready to have their timer changed. Anne says: ‘We simply felt helpless. It is unimaginable to get anybody on the cellphone.’
Landlady Lorraine Mawer, from Bedfordshire, has been paying £5.50 a month to British Fuel for greater than 5 years as a part of a primary plan that features central heating breakdown cowl.
Gross sales drive: Regardless of the backlog, British Fuel is providing new HomeCare prospects reward playing cards value as much as £75 in the event that they join earlier than Might 10
However when her tenants reported having no scorching water or heating final Friday, her letting agent contacted British Fuel and was advised the earliest appointment obtainable was on April 22, leaving the tenants with out heating for 20 days.
Lorraine says: ‘British Fuel is taking cash for a service it isn’t offering. Ultimately, my letting agent needed to ship some heaters spherical to my tenants. We then needed to pay for an area plumber, who visited on Easter Sunday.’
Grumblings over boiler providers not being carried out had been already rife earlier than the pandemic.
Complaints web site Resolver has acquired 1,844 gripes about boilers up to now yr, however the common variety of month-to-month instances rose from about 70 in December to 150 in January and February.
Martyn James, of Resolver, says: ‘Usually these sorts of plan usually are not definitely worth the paper they’re written on, as there may be so little readability within the small print.
‘British Fuel ought to set out of their paperwork how lengthy prospects ought to anticipate to attend for a go to and state what it is going to do if it can not meet this deadline.’
British Fuel prospects have additionally vented their fury after seeing their premiums hiked at renewal.
Evaluation web site Trustpilot is plagued by complaints concerning the firm. GMB says 200,000 annual service visits had been cancelled following 12 days of strike motion by the top of January.
It says these numbers have since risen ‘considerably’ as there have now been 42 days of strike motion in whole.
British Fuel says annual service visits are being delayed and it’ll clear the backlog shortly, including that it has now resumed non-essential jobs.
It claims it’s reaching susceptible prospects with boiler breakdowns on the identical day, and non-vulnerable prospects inside two to 3 days.
A spokesman provides: ‘We have needed to rearrange some annual service visits, primarily pushed by our response to the Covid-19 lockdown, to safeguard the well being and security of our employees and prospects.
‘Throughout the lockdown we now have targeted on speedy risk to well being, life or security, together with heating breakdowns and uncontrollable water leaks.’
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