When the Grumpy family moved into our new home a few weeks before Grumpy Baby’s arrival, things were hectic to say the least. There was an endless stream of companies to inform and DIY jobs to be done, so when British Gas offered me a free boiler service if I signed up to their HomeCare package, I jumped at the chance of ticking one more thing off my list.
The next day the engineer arrived and gave my boiler a clean bill of health with two exceptions. There was a small leak on one of the valves and the thermostat looked like it could do with replacing. He sung the praises of Hive but told me that both of the jobs were outside of his remit so he would arrange for another engineer to visit that evening.
The next engineer arrived shortly after the first had left and fixed the leak… although his shoddy workmanship would require me to get a further two engineers to visit at later dates. After the engineer had finished the valve I told him that the previous engineer believed my thermostat needed changing. Without so much as glancing at the thermostat the engineer informed me that he would need to install Hive, British Gas’s new SMART thermostat, that allows you to control your heating via your smart phone or tablet, and that it would cost £250.
I was shocked at this news but as it was summer and the previous engineer had only suggested the thermostat needed changing, not told me it was faulty, I declined and thought nothing of it.
Fast forward a few weeks, Grumpy Baby had joined the family and the hot water tap had developed a nasty knocking noise every time the faucet was turned on. I called British Gas who sent a third engineer to look into it. Once he had found the problem I decided to ask him to take a look at the thermostat. The weather was still balmy but I didn’t want to be caught out come winter. Once again the engineer had no interest in looking at the thermostat and immediately told me that my only option was to install Hive for £250 which he could do straight away.
Again I declined. I was now starting to suspect that the engineers had been encouraged to sell the Hive units whenever possible.
It wasn’t long before I needed to call a fourth engineer as my boiler, which had been given a clean bill of health only weeks earlier, had stopped working entirely. The new engineer fitted a new circuit board and while he worked I decided to ask about the thermostat once again, as autumn was now approaching and I wanted to be sure there was nothing wrong with it. This engineer did give the thermostat a very brief look before informing me that all he could do was replace it with a Hive unit for £150.
So, the price I was quoted had reduced by £100, but the engineer couldn’t tell me whether the thermostat was working or not, only that all he could do about it was replace it with a Hive unit.
I had hoped that this was the last time I’d see a British Gas engineer for a long time but unfortunately it was not to be. As winter set in I began to notice that the thermostat was indeed faulty. No matter what temperature we set it to, it would only heat the house to 4 or 5 degrees less than that temperature. I had started using the baby room thermometer to check the temperature next to the thermostat, so that I could confirm that all was not as it should be. I was just about to call an engineer to look at the thermostat again, when I found yet another problem with the boiler, which had slowly been flooding our kitchen behind the base boards for several weeks.
When this final engineer arrived he looked at the leak and although he couldn’t fix it himself he advised me what the problem was so that I could instruct a plumber. I then informed him that I believed that the thermostat was faulty. I showed him the room thermometer and told him that the temperature was always around 4 to 5 degrees colder than it should be, despite the heating being on 24 hours a day.
This engineer did give the thermostat a quick look before informing me that he agreed the thermostat was faulty, but that all he could do was replace it with a Hive unit for £150. This time I knew that there was a problem with the thermostat so I questioned if the Hive unit was the only option. The engineer confirmed that this was the case and went on to give me a hard sell, becoming more insistent when I informed him that I couldn’t afford £150, and even if I could find the money I couldn’t make a choice like without discussing it with Grumpy Dad. I was holding a squirmy Grumpy Baby at the time and when I repeatedly refused to sign up there and then, the engineer laughed at me and said “Well, I guess it depends whether you want your baby to be cold” he then wrote his number on the service sheet and insisted that “when” I decide to get Hive I should call him directly, not the service hot line, and he would come and install the unit himself.
After this engineer had left I was absolutely fuming. Not only was British Gas trying to pressure me into buying a expensive smart thermostat instead of replacing the faulty one with a inexpensive regular thermostat. But this latest engineer had tried to pressure me by implying that I was a bad mother if I didn’t agree to buy the Hive unit. I decided to comment on Twitter regarding the issue and was quickly contacted by British Gas, who put me in contact with Margaret in Customer Relations.
Remember how each of the engineers had informed me that the “only” thing they could do was replace the thermostat with Hive? Well, after some discussion Margaret confirmed that this was not true. All of the engineers were able to replace a faulty thermostat with a regular thermostat. Unfortunately, Customer Relations seemed entirely uninterested in the fact that every one of their engineers had attempted to mislead me into buying a Hive unit. However, when I pressed them, they did agree to speak to the latest engineer about his sales tactics and have a senior engineer visit a week later to look at my thermostat.
Despite now having it confirmed that I could have a regular replacement thermostat, and arranging a engineer to do so, There was still something bothering me. Why would 5 separate engineers insist on telling me that I would need Hive and neglect to tell me that they could in fact replace the thermostat like for like?
I contacted British Gas Customer Relations again to ask if these engineers were paid a bonus for selling Hive units and it was confirmed that all British Gas engineers receive an incentive for up-selling energy saving products, and that Hive is one of these products.
My thermostat has now been replaced under my HomeCare insurance at no cost and for the first time since the weather changed, Grumpy Baby can play without being wrapped in blankets. But my experience does leave me wondering. How many other people have been informed that they have no other choice but to pay for their thermostat to be replace with Hive, when in fact their thermostat could have been replaced like for like, for free.