Consumer Fightback columnist Helen Dewdney explains how to use the law and a letter to the chief executive to make a complaint, using the example of a readers she helped.
Emma Maslin is a blogger who writes at The Money Whisperer and is usually in the position of helping others with money, but she turned to us for help when she had an issue with the installation of a new gas cooker at her rental property.
Here's what you need to know for gas safety certificates and the legalities around the issue, and what your rights are under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The installation of a new gas cooker or hob requires an all important gas safety certificate
Emma ordered a gas cooker and paid £80 to have it installed by AO.com last year at a rental property.
In advance of the installation, she agreed with the AO.com team that the gas safety certificate would be emailed to her, as she requires this as the landlord.
However, no gas safety certificate had been left at the property or sent to Emma.
She contacted AO via Twitter again who apologised and said they would chase it up and get it sent to her.
Over two days Emma made numerous calls to AO customer services, each time speaking with someone different.
Eventually she was told that there was a problem with the installer’s ‘handheld terminal’ and that they would ensure that the gas safety certificate was with her by the following morning.
AO.com gave Emma £40 as a gesture of goodwill in light of all her calls. However, by the following day she still didn’t have the certificate.
So, she called to chase and was told that an engineer would need to go back to the house to re-do the assessment so that AO.com could provide the certificate.
Three days after installation there was still no valid gas safety certificate and Emma was told that they couldn’t get an engineer to her until four days later, on the Sunday.
Unhappy with this, Emma arranged for her own engineer to attend the property. But when the engineer looked, he found a drop in pressure and had to determine the source and fix it before issuing a certificate. He discovered a hole in the pipework at the main gas meter.
He found the gas leak to be on the flexible piping leading from the Emergency Control Valve to the meter and requested a copy of the installation paperwork.
The solution involved calling the meter engineers, Cadent, and ensuring the pipework was fixed before he could sign off the gas safety certificate. This was an additional two hours on top of the engineer’s standard safety check.
The leak was not caused by AO.com and no-one could have known in advance that there was a problem with the external gas meter pipe. But installing a gas appliance requires by law that a gas safety certificate is provided and this can only be signed off when all connected gas equipment is OK at the property, not just a single appliance. Ensuring a safe gas environment is an expectation of qualified engineers.
Emma was thoroughly frustrated by the matter, the legalities around the issue, being out of pocket financially and so she turned to me for help.
I helped Emma put an email together to send to the AO CEO.
AO.com was clearly in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for not providing services with reasonable care and skill on more than one occasion. We requested the following:
● £80 to pay the local gas engineer whom Emma had to engage to perform the assessment, which should have been included in the installation charge she had already paid to AO.com. She had already received a £70 refund, but his bill was an additional £80 due to the length of time he was required to attend. The invoice was attached as evidence.
● A refund for the £80 installation charge paid to AO.com whose engineers should have provided a gas safety certificate as part of the installation. The installation was not completed properly and therefore she should not have to pay for a service that she did not receive.
● Redress for the considerable inconvenience, time wasted on the phone and stress caused by the gross failings of AO.com engineers. Emma’s obligations as a landlord require her to be in possession of a valid certificate; to find out there was a gas leak and that she hadn’t had a valid gas safety certificate for five days was frightening. Her tenant was also left at risk.
I advised Emma to also point out that she could have been liable for a prison sentence, up to £6,000 in fines, invalidated insurance and manslaughter charges, if her tenant were to die due to an unsafe gas appliance. The wait was not acceptable given the high risk and under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 she was entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable care and skill and this was not done. She even gave them an opportunity to put the matter right and it still was not done.
As always, I advised requesting a response within a deadline of five working days and to inform AO.com that should the response not be satisfactory she would take the matter further. This would include, but not be limited to, reporting the matter to the Gas Safe Register, sharing her experiences on social media and review sites and taking the matter to the Alternative Dispute Resolution provider or the Small Claims Court.
Emma did not receive a reply and I advised her to forward the email as high priority and ask why no-one had had the courtesy of replying and that she would be taking the matter further. She quickly got a call.
Emma had already received £110 and AO.com then refunded the £80 installation charge and the £150 she had paid the engineer to do the job properly. She was essentially out of pocket by £150, so by the end she had received £160 on top of this, by way of redress.
A spokesperson for the Gas Safe Register said ‘If a Gas Safe registered engineer visits a property for the purpose of installing a gas appliance such as a cooker, it is not a legal requirement for them to provide documentation after carrying out the work.
‘There is only one gas record legally required to be completed under the Gas Safety installation and Use Regulations (GSIUR), and that is a Landlord’s safety record, which should be completed on an annual basis.
A spokesperson for AO.com said ‘We can confirm that we have been in touch with a customer regarding a recent complaint regarding the fitting of a gas cooker. We can confirm the complaint has now been resolved and we have provided a full refund for the cost of the independent engineer and installation of the appliance. We have apologised to the customer for any inconvenience caused.'
So, the complaint for this particular customer has now been resolved by AO.com.