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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 13:06 GMT
Pensioner sent 1,600 bill
Electricty meter
Mrs Martins was told to pay 1,670 for electricty
A pensioner from Cornwall says she was kept awake with worry after British Gas demanded more than 1,600 for electricity.

Irene Martin, from Camborne, who was widowed last November, said she was shocked to get a reminder notice from the company for her last quarterly bill.

British Gas said the actual bill had been sent back to be checked but delays led to a reminder notice being posted.

The company admits it made a mistake and said it has recalculated the amount.

I couldn't phone right away because I was distressed
Irene Martin
Irene Martin said since her husband died, taking over his responsibilities has been a struggle.

She said: "The bill came after he died and in his name.

"Because he saw to bills, and because it upset me, I couldn't phone right away because I was distressed.

"I wrote to them to ask where they got this figure of 1,670 from and why they hadn't said how many units I had used. They never answered me at all."

Irene phoned the company to discuss the demand. A telephonist admitted the company had made a mistake.

Mrs Martin said: "She said that the meter had been read wrong.

Checking delay

"I think they say on all the bills 'steps will be taken if you do not pay this amount in so many days'. But where did they expect me to get this amount?"

She said the distress caused has been immeasurable and she wants an updated bill sent as quickly as the demand.

British Gas spokesman Allan Wood said: "We have checks to catch things when we know a large bill is usual. It doesn't go the customer, it goes back for checking."

"But there was a delay in checking and the reminder went out before we checked her bill."

Mr Wood said Mrs Martin will be sent a bunch of flowers as an apology.

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24 Feb 03 |  Science/Nature

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