From an article by Wills Robinson in the DAILY MAIL 1 August 2014
A pensioner who was given an incorrect £80,000 energy bill from British Gas is celebrating victory after winning a 12-year legal battle against the energy giants.
Roger Patrick, 74, from Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, was overcharged £35,000 for gas and electricity at a sports club he helped build and was taken to court five times over false readings.
The grandfather-of-six claims he suffered a stroke as a result of stress brought on by the costly legal process, but says he is satisfied as the amount has now been written off.
||Mr Patrick , left, helped build the Burton Park Country Club near Kettering, Northamptonshire, for local children and football clubs to enjoy in 1992. In 2000, British Gas changed the electric meter at the club and two years later he noticed his electricity charges seemed extortionately high. Between 1999 and 2014, he used £49,000 worth of electricity, but was charged £80,000.He was then hounded for payments, even though the amount was inaccurate. The company even went to court on five occasions seeking a warrant to have his supplies disconnected. After he refused to pay the entire fee, British Gas sent in debt recovery agents in 2012. It prompted him to seek legal advice of his own, and after a lengthy dispute the difference was written off.
Today Mr Patrick, said the court costs had exceeded the £80,000 bill he was contesting but declared: 'It was more a matter of principle.' He added: 'All I wanted to do was to say that I did not owe that sort of money. It has been very stressful but I am satisfied now in what I did. 'It is 12 years of hard work but it has all paid off and I just want other people to know they don’t have to roll over be bullied by these fat cats from huge companies. 'I have been to the magistrates about six times. I was determined not to pay the money. It is just wrong. That sort of money for a small club is ridiculous. ‘I actually had to remortgage my house in order to keep in going for as long as I did. It was a matter of principle.'
The father-of-three remained manager of Burton Park Country Club for nearly twenty years but said the court battle meant he had to close the club in 2010. It has now been taken on by new owners. Mr Patrick, who lives in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, with his wife of 49-years Catherine, 69, added: 'That club was my pride and joy, its costs me that as well. 'As well as the errors with the electricity they tried to charge me for units of gas that I had never used at the club.
'They went three years without visiting and just kept sending very high estimated bills. I was being charged for tens of thousands of units that I had never used.' Mr Patrick said he does not now intend to pursue British Gas in a civil case for damages due to the ill health he has suffered in the past two years.
He had already made a partially successful complaint to the Ombudsman in 2011 but he said British Gas 'had not done everything he had asked.' He added: 'The Ombudsman never really understood. He made a partially helpful decision in November 2011, but even then British Gas did not do all that he had asked.'
Kevin Rogers, from Wilson Browne Solicitors, who began representing Mr Patrick in 2012, said: 'Mr Patrick is a pillar of the local community. 'He has been a fantastic supporter of grass roots football and social activities for decades. We advised that on this occasion actual legal proceedings against British Gas should be seen as a costly last resort.' That being said, it took a year of patient negotiation to finally get the case in to the right hands within British Gas.'
Tim Cowen of British Gas Business said: 'We apologise for the prolonged difficulties that Mr Patrick has faced with his energy bills, as we make every effort to resolve complaints swiftly for our customers. 'In this case there were a number of issues on his account dating back to 1999, which resulted in estimated or incorrect bills. 'We worked to resolve this, but were unable for a number of years to access the property to read the gas and electricity meters. 'We take the outcome of any ombudsman complaint very seriously and implemented all remedies in 2011 to help reduce Mr Patrick’s bill. 'We have now put in place a suitable payment arrangement with the current account holder for Burton Park Wanderers F.C and agreed to write off the remaining balance left for Mr Patrick to pay as a gesture of goodwill in recognition of his circumstances.'
Sadly, 'Bo' died in 2019 - read about the tributes to his life in football here