Charges for stolen fuel
Before demanding payment for stolen fuel, the supplier needs to have evidence on the balance of probabilities (ie, it is more likely than not) of fuel theft by an intentional act or by culpable negligence.1Condition 12A.11(g) SLC Often the supplier assesses an amount of fuel which it thinks has been stolen, and demands payment for that before it reconnects. It can only do this if it can prove that there was a theft, and that it was caused by the particular damage in question.2R v Director General of Gas Supply ex parte Smith  (unreported); R v Minister of Energy ex parte Guildford  (unreported) If the supplier can prove that fuel has been stolen, and can justify its assessment of its value, then it can disconnect for non-payment. However, suppliers cannot use this power if the amount charged is ‘genuinely in dispute’. 3Sch 6 para 2 EA 1989; Sch 2B para 7 GA 1987 Even when charging for gas lost as a result of theft, the supplier must take into account whether any of the occupants of the premises are of pensionable age, disabled or chronically sick when deciding how to recover any sum owed.4Condition 12A.11 SLC If you fall into one of these categories, your supplier must use disconnection as a last resort for non-payment of charges arising from theft. An instalment plan or a prepayment meter should be offered as a means of repayment and the supplier must not disconnect premises during the winter.5Condition 12A.11 SLC The supplier must also take into account your ‘ability to pay’ all or part of the charges for gas lost as a result of theft, including when calculating instalments.6Condition 12A.11 SLC This includes giving due consideration to information provided by third parties and the value of all of the charges that are to be paid via the prepayment meter. The supplier must also take all reasonable steps to identify whether you will have difficulty in paying all or part of the charges arising from theft.7Condition 12A.11(b) SLC
Also check carefully any charges for disconnection and reconnection. Gas suppliers are limited by the Gas Act to recovering their ‘reasonable expenses’. Otherwise, there is nothing that says exactly what charges can be included, but they must be linked directly to the disconnection and the reasons for it. Typical charges include:
•meter replacement – it is possible for tampering to take place without the meter actually being damaged, so do not pay for a meter to be replaced that is capable of being re-used without repairs;
•gas fitting isolation, restoration and repair – check that gas fittings are not charged for in their entirety if they have not been tampered with;
•visits to your home – check that travel costs and the number of visits are reasonable;
•administration costs of investigation and calculating fuel used but not paid for – check that charges are reasonable;
•general administration – check that this is not wholly or partly double-counted within some other charge (such as debt recovery).