A SHOCK £9,600 British Gas bill left an independent business owner fearing she could be forced to close her beauty business and sparked five weeks of stress and worry.

Laura Barton, owner of Fiona’s Beauty Studio, in Furtherwick Road, Canvey, was left paying her staff’s wages out of her own savings after receiving the bill.

Initially, the 35-year-old was told the bill would be taken automatically out of her business account, however Lloyds Bank was able to block it for her.

After five weeks of back and forth conversations with British Gas, she was told yesterday that the bill would be reduced and payment plan put in place after the Echo contacted the firm.

She said: “If it hadn’t been for my bank, my business probably would have shut down.

“I was off sick last week due to the worry.”

Laura had a direct debit set up with British Gas, however she failed to notice that payments hadn’t been taken since October 2022.

After receiving the bill on October 19, she emailed the company on October 20 but didn’t receive a reply for 11 days.

Laura acknowledges she ought to have checked her direct debit was being paid and that she provided meter readings regularly. However, she was not prompted to by British Gas Lite and was “busy running her business”.

After five weeks of Laura trying, she contacted the Echo yesterday and now British Gas has told her they accept they were wrong to try and take the bill in one huge payment.

Laura added: “If it wasn’t for the Echo, I’d still have been stressing.”

British Gas admitted there had been “service failings” on their part. However, prior to contacting them in October, the provider had not heard from Laura “for some time”. Her last payment was made in October 2022.

A British Gas spokesman: “We’re reaching out to Miss Barton to confirm that the bill relates to unpaid energy used since last year.

“We understand the difficulty that businesses are facing right now, and we’ll be looking at how we can reduce Miss Barton’s bill as well as discussing any of the support that is available such as a manageable extended payment plan.”