British Gas, Billing Mess

All companies are under pressure to save money. British Gas have recently given everyone a salutary lesson on how not to do it. It may sound simplistic, but chances are that British Gas employed insufficient resources on performing a billing migration. In particular, they skimped on testing and validation. And what was the result? Lots of complaints, lots spent on extra staff to handle those complaints, lots of negative publicity. The cost to British Gas will be far greater than the amounts saved during migration.

Here are a few links to stories that describe the mess made by British Gas. They also give a sense of how much reputation damage has been done.

Apologies from the British Gas Managing Director on BBC TV

The BBC’s story on the British Gas billing fiasco

How The Sun newspaper reported the rise in complaints from British Gas customers

A Guardian newspaper story on how British Gas intended to take a deceased customer to court

And, in what must have been the worst error of all, here is the story of one customer receiving a bill for £2,320,333,681,613. Yes, UK£2.3 trillion (US$4.6 trillion). At least you cannot argue that British Gas do not have scalable billing. But unless there is a burst of hyper-inflation it will be a long time before they really need to send out such a big bill. In 2006 the group that owns British Gas had total annual revenues of a mere UK£16.5bn (US$33bn). It is a shame they did not reinvest more of it in billing…

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.