A PENSIONER in poor health has been living in fear after being hounded by debt collectors over a gas bill she does not owe.
Gina Harrison, pictured, who lives in sheltered accommodation at Dancox House, St John’s, Worcester, does not even have gas at her flat. She uses only electricity.
However, she says she has been harassed by 12 letters from British Gas since last September, followed up by numerous telephone calls which have left her afraid to answer the door and telephone. Ms Harrison, aged 67, has called British Gas between 20 and 30 times to tell them her flat does not have gas. Members of her family have even contacted them on her behalf, but the bills keep on coming.
One of the letters says her unpaid debt has now been passed to a collections agency who will be visiting her in the next few days to collect, leaving her concerned debt collectors will take her valuables, which she has worked hard to pay for since the age of 16.
Ms Harrison has suffered two strokes, the last just two weeks ago, affecting her mobility and speech and forcing her to use a wheelchair.
She also has an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and has battled throat and bowel cancer, but said she was ‘not a victim’ and would ‘fight’ British Gas.
Ms Harrison said her blood pressure had risen as a result of the persistent contact at her flat, managed by Worcester Community Housing, and she was regularly in tears over a rising bill for £77.57.
Ms Harrison said: “When you (the journalist) came to the door I was just hoping it wasn’t the bailiffs. I live in fear. They ring me between 8am and 9pm and say ‘when are you paying the gas?’ I have told them I have had a stroke and they say ‘you need to pay the gas bill’. They are quite ruthless. They use a local exchange and if I see ‘01905’ I don’t answer it. It might be a friend but I’m afraid to answer it.
If they keep threatening me I am tempted to put my head in the oven – but it is electric, not gas.
“I feel I’m being hounded. They tell me I’m paying to rent the meter. I don’t even have a meter.”
She even put a sign on her door saying ‘away at present’, and dreads the postman. Ironically, she received a notice of disconnection on April 2, 2014, even though she was never connected in the first place.
Friend Bob Guest, who lives on the same floor, uses a Morse code-style knock when he comes because she fears it could be bailiffs at her door.
A copy of a landlord gas inspection safety record (dated last March) shows there is no gas connection at her flat.
Ms Harrison is considering contacting city MP Robin Walk, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, or even a solicitor. She pays her electric bill by direct debit every month and communal heating every week.
Leonie Edwards, head of regional media relations at British Gas, said someone in the housing association (WCH) or in the National Grid must have taken out the meter but this had not registered on the industry database.
She said: “If the system thinks the gas meter is there it will continue to generate bills on an estimated basis.
“The account has now been closed and British Gas will write to the customer to explain what has happened.
“She will receive no further contact from us. ”
She said British Gas had ‘tried their absolute hardest to speak to Ms Harrison.
However, a spokesman for WCH said: “We don’t take out gas me ters. Only the provider, British Gas, can do that.
“If a tenant keeps the meter they will still get a standing charge.”
Ms Harrison remains adamant there is no meter at her flat.