British Gas fined £2.5m for ignoring consumer plaints

British Gas has been fined £2.5 million by UK gas and electricity market regulator Ofgem for failing to properly address customer complaints. This is the second fine for Centrica Plc's retail arm in less than a month.

British Gas has reportedly already improved how it handles complaints. However, the regulator said in a statement, "The fine is a warning from Ofgem that all energy companies must take complaint-handling seriously and treat their customers fairly."

The decision by Ofgem, announced on Wednesday, followed another charge of £1 million imposed on the business supply arm of British Gas on 1 July for misreporting the amount of electricity provided from renewable sources.

This time around, Ofgem found that Centrica had failed to reopen issues that were not resolved on the first complaint, did not provide customers with details of the redress service offered by the energy ombudsman, and did not have an adequate system for handling complaints from micro businesses.

A spokesman for British Gas acknowledged that service to micro businesses fell short, but said Ofgem had overreacted on the other points given the company's overall record on managing complaints, which has been praised by consumer watchdogs.

"Recently, Consumer Focus put us at the top of its league for complaints handling with a four-star rating," said the spokesman. "Therefore Ofgem's finding us in breach on a minor point when we have 16 million accounts, is, we feel, totally disproportionate to the issue."