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31 October 2003
Bernard Hope


I attach the contents of a letter I wrote to the Chairman of British Gas. To date I have not had a reply. I accept that I have only made one call for service on this problem but frankly I have no confidence in the British Gas Engineers. As I say in my letter I will probably get the same comments if another one comes out.

Seven weeks ago my wife was taken ill and subsequent tests revealed a tumour in the bile duct. Three weeks ago she underwent a seven hour operation to remove the tumour.

As you will appreciate over the six weeks during which she was diagnosed, transferred to St George's Hospital in Tooting and, recovered from the operation, I was somewhat preoccupied.

Three weeks ago while she was still in hospital I put my central heating on for the first time. After a few days I realised that there was a problem as the heating remained on 24 hours a day even though I had the timer set to come on at 0700 and go off at 0900 and, on again at 1200 and off at 2100.

The only way I could stop the heating from working was to switch the thermostat to zero.
At this time I was travelling to London daily to see my wife so did not have a chance to ring British Gas for a service call.

I have a three star contract, which I have had for 14 years.

On Monday the 20 October other members of the family visited my wife so, I stayed at home and called British Gas. I was told that an engineer would call between 1200 and 1800 that day. He finally arrived at approximately 1755.

I explained the problem. He went to the time clock, which is upstairs in the airing cupboard, and pressed the buttons several times. I had discovered earlier that the HEATING CONSTANT button was jammed.

The engineer then went down to the thermostat and twisted it back and forth, then went to the boiler in the kitchen and looked at it for a few minutes.

He then returned to the time clock, came downstairs, went to the boiler then turned to me and said 'I can't find anything wrong' I ask why does the heating stay on for 24 hours even though the clock is set. He replied that he had turned the clock past the 2100 time set effectively switching the heating off and the boiler had gone off.
I asked again why does the heating remain on 24 hours. He said this was not possible as he had just proved that the boiler goes off when the clock switches off.

I again said but my heating stays on 24 hours a day and I can only switch it off by setting the thermostat to zero.His answer to this was 'I am not arguing with you Sir, if you want me to change the clock I will do so, I can also get a second opinion.'

I told him that I just wanted him to resolve my problem but, he was adamant that I did not have one. I told him to leave.

On Wednesday the 22 October my wife was allowed to come home where she was attended by the District Nurse.

My heating was still on 24 hours a day and the first night the bedroom where my wife slept reached a temperature of over 80. I had to turn the radiator off and open the windows wide. By three o'clock in the morning the room was like a refrigerator. Not the ideal situation for someone who had just come out of hospital.

By this time the heating remained on all day and night even with the thermostat set to zero however, when I examined the clock again I noticed that during his pressing of buttons the engineer appeared to have set the water heating to constant. I reset this to timer and low and behold the heating went off in conjunction with the times set on the clock. Unfortunately it did not come on again the next morning and I had to reset the WATER to constant.

I do not understand the workings of central heating systems but, having noticed that the constant button was jammed I had mentioned, when I rang for a service call that the problem might be with the clock however, your engineer maintained that the clock was perfectly okay, even with a jammed constant button.

Now we come to my dilemma. If I make another call under my three star contract will I get the same engineer with the same attitude stating that there is nothing wrong with my heating or, will I get another engineer who will press a few buttons look at the boiler and also tell me that there is nothng wrong with my central heating or, will I get the service that I pay for and have paid for over 14 years, and get the problem with my central heating sorted out.

Frankly this is not the service I have come to expect from British Gas, it has always been brilliant but now it seems to be going down hill. Bernard Hope ... 31 October 2003

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