My street suffered a very severe power cut because of bad weather.
During the repairs, 400 volts were erroneously pushed through the neutral cable instead of 240 volts through the live one.
This resulted in a massive power surge to all 11 houses, some of which saw their fuse boards catch fire and sockets burn out — many lost all electrical appliances.
More repairs have since been carried out, but I still have an issue with my British Gas electricity meter; after the incident, there was a mammoth increase in the reading.
Electric shock: One reader’s meter reading went haywire after her street suffered a severe power surge
I have sent numerous emails, which are actually now verging on being rude, I’m a bit embarrassed to say.
I have asked many times for British Gas to check the meter and have been promised visits that never occurred.
The meter now appears to be working fine, but obviously there has been a huge forward wind at some point. I fear I will soon face a monumental bill.
Mrs L. E., Essex.
Tony replies: Your reading leapt from 8511 on December 13 to 99960 on March 15. British Gas has investigated and, to be honest, I think it is as bemused as you and I.
It says it’s highly unlikely a power surge would have caused the problem you experienced, and that the meter was working properly when it tested it.
A spokesman says: ‘All the tests we have done indicate that the meter is not malfunctioning. But Mrs E’s meter reading pattern does seem unusual.’
One thing that struck me was that, if you remove the final zero of the 99960 figure you provided, it’s very close to the 9997 British Gas later calculated.
That would also be consistent with your readings before and since then.
Like many old-style meters, yours has six dials.
When taking a reading, you usually disregard the last digit on the dials, so British Gas wonders whether it is possible that, with the readings being provided in different formats and by different people — including you — some may have disregarded the last digit and some may have included it.
To resolve the matter, British Gas promised that you would not be overcharged and is manually calculating your bill based on previous actual readings that you agree are consistent.
And to be absolutely sure all is well in the future, it has installed a new meter.
Straight to the point
I am 70 and cycle everywhere — I drive for only one hour a week. Pay-as-you-drive insurance could save me a lot of money. Which companies offer this service?
G. W-M., Harrogate.
This is currently offered by only small, internet-based firms.
One is By Miles, which covers motorists aged between 25 and 75. It charges from £12 a month to cover your car while it is parked, and then you pay for each mile you drive, counted by a small computer that is installed under the dashboard. This cost is based on the risk you pose, but is around 5p per mile.
I have BT broadband, but want to switch to EE. I was told that to keep my BT email address, I’d need to pay £5 per month. Is this right?
J. A-B., by email.
BT does charge its non-broadband customers £5 per month to use its email service. It says this allows you to open up to ten email accounts.
If you don’t want to pay, consider opening a free email account with Hotmail or Google.
I am being hounded by a claims management company which says I have been missold a package bank account and could be owed thousands of pounds.
But if I use its services to launch a claim and win, the firm will take a 39 per cent cut. What should I do?
D. O., Middleton.
Avoid at all costs. If you think you have been missold a package account you can make a compensation claim yourself for free by complaining to your bank.
Call or write using our template letter at thisismoney.co.uk/mis-sold-account. If your bank rejects your claim, you can take your case for free to the Financial Ombudsman.
My mother died in 2004 and left me her flat. Initially I rented it out, but now my son lives in it while my husband and I live in our own house.
When I die, will the children have to pay capital gains tax (CGT) on the flat when they sell it to share the value?
I think we are safe with inheritance tax as both properties together are worth about £700,000.
Is there any way to avoid CGT? Would it be better, for example, for me to sell the flat now?
Mrs H. S., Berkshire.
I put your question to Richard Morley, tax dispute resolution partner at accounting firm BDO.
He told me that as long as you still own the flat in your sole name and your children inherit it from you, for tax purposes, they will acquire it at its value at your death.
So, if they sell it shortly afterwards, any capital gain should be within their annual exemptions (£11,700 each).
In contrast, if you give them the property now, you will pay capital gains tax calculated as if you had sold it at market value.
‘If the flat and your other assets not passing to your husband are worth less than your inheritance tax [IHT] nil-rate band — currently £325,000 — when you die, your children will inherit it free from IHT,’ says Mr Morley.
‘In addition, if your husband dies leaving everything to you, both properties could pass to your children tax-free.’
Mr Morley points out that as well as inheriting your husband’s IHT nil-rate band, you both have a main residence nil-band that can apply when passing your main home to direct descendants.
‘For couples where the second death occurs in 2020/21 or later tax years, this can exempt up to £1 million in assets passing to their children. But do make sure your wills are properly drafted so your family benefits from these tax reliefs,’ he says.
You have your say
I own a hotel and have good reviews on these sites.
But they arbitrarily delete reviews and allow posts from people who aren’t guests.
There is a common scam where people threaten a bad review if you won’t give them discounts.
D. N., Carlisle.
I think comparison sites save us a fortune. Why would you haggle with a receptionist when a website will do it for you?
B. T., Cheshire.
We were offered a special price on a booking site which didn’t exist when we arrived at the hotel in Italy. We complained and never heard back.
L. K., Oxford.
All the big chains now offer best price guarantees, which make them cheaper than these third-party sites.
Be sure to negotiate a perk with the hotel, such as a free breakfast or room upgrade. You’re saving them a 20 per cent commission after all.
T. M., Wellingborough, Northants.
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