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Why did Bord Gais get debt collectors over my €660 bill?

A BUSINESSWOMAN has slammed Bord Gais Energy for hiring a debt collection agency to seek repayment of a contested €660 bill.

Dublin-based bookkeeper Carolyn Compelli said she has found the semi-State company impossible to deal with as she tried to sort out the problem.

The difficulty arose after Ms Compelli's tenant did not pay her gas bill for two years, between September 2009 and July 2011.

The service was not disconnected so the arrears just kept getting bigger and bigger.

"I discovered after she (the tenant) left that the bills were addressed to me at the rented property. My tenant had attempted to put the bills in her name but Bord Gais refused to do that," said self-employed Ms Compelli, who lives in Drimnagh.

"I don't know what they wanted from her (to put the bills in her own name) and nor did she and she gave up. Trying to get anything done with them (Bord Gais) is almost impossible," she added.

Ms Compelli was heavily critical of the decision to hire debt collection company Arvato Finance.

"How much is Bord Gais paying for these services?" Ms Compelli told the Herald.

The company sent five 'final' letters to her at the rented address but it did not cut off the gas, she said. Ms Compelli is annoyed Bord Gais is "farming this debt out when they made zero effort to collect it". She had until April 9 to pay the arrears but refused to do so.

"I am not paying this bill. I am never paying this bill even if I am ordered to do so by a judge. If I did I would be rewarding dishonesty and incompetence," Ms Compelli said.

A Bord Gais spokeswoman said the company "must seek payment on customer accounts from the named account holder and cannot seek payment from a third party at the request of the account holder as this would be unfair and impractical".

She added: "In this case, we have contacted the account holder on multiple occasions using the contact information provided to us when the account was opened to offer help and advice in bringing this account up to date."

The spokeswoman told the Herald: "We have a very clear policy on disconnections and that is that disconnection is an absolute last resort.

"In instances where Bord Gais Networks are unable to access the meter, the disconnection process, which would only commence after the credit collections process has been exhausted, could take longer.

"As a last resort, we transfer closed accounts with outstanding arrears to Arvato, who work on behalf of Bord Gais Energy to seek payment on closed accounts."

Arvato referred a query from the Herald to Bord Gais.