We were charged £150 for a boiler repair that didn’t happen

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When the boiler stopped working in the house that we had just moved into, I called out an emergency plumbing firm, ERG Facilities, to fix it.

The plumber arrived the next evening – nearly a day later than agreed – and after a brief once-over, decided that the fan was at fault, even though I have since discovered that this boiler doesn’t have a fan. He told me he would get the part in the morning and would return later that day. For this, I was charged £150.

After two days, and no further sign of him, I contacted Southend-based ERG and was told that the boiler engineer had since changed his mind, and it now was the fault of another, more expensive, part, and the company wanted a further £300.

Unconvinced, I called another boiler engineer in the area who arrived within the hour. He realised immediately that the pilot light was out and relit it. This was the fault and it took minutes to rectify.

When I contacted ERG to ask for a refund, I was told that the plumber had claimed that he couldn’t get to the boiler as space was restrictive, even though the second engineer easily rectified the problem.

It said that I won’t be getting a refund as it was my responsibility to make sure the engineer had access.

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I asked ERG, which offers a range of emergency services across the UK, about your case and, in fairness, it responded fairly quickly and provided you with a full refund. It declined to comment further.

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While you do not say how you found ERG, your case does highlight a general difficulty that arises when faced with such a problem: who to approach to solve it?

The first reaction, for many people, is to turn to Google. A search often leads to one of the big plumbing firms that claim to be local but, in fact, operate nationally – often simply sending round a local subcontractor they find in Yellow Pages or similar.

These firms typically charge by the hour, often at eyewatering rates, and, in some cases, demand bank transfer payments up front – something people should never agree to.

The problem is that while many of the plumbers are honest and competent, some are not. The firms often have no idea about the person they have sent to your home.

A much better course of action if you need a plumber in a hurry, is to contact everyone you know and ask if they can recommend someone local that they have used and found to be trustworthy. If you don’t have a number in your book, make it your new year resolution to find one.

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