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Left in the cold over E.ON central heating insurance

'My boiler broke down and HES says it is not covered under my E.ON policy.' Photograph: Graham Turner/Graham Turner

Since 2006, I have been paying what I thought was E.ON for a policy to cover central heating problems. Last week my boiler broke down, at which point I discovered that the insurance contract, which costs £13.50 a month, had been taken over by a firm called Home Emergency Services (HES).

HES responded promptly, but the engineer who arrived informed me that the problem wasn't covered under the current insurance policy and would cost almost £1,000 to rectify. He diagnosed sludge in the pump, which I was told is specifically excluded in the small print of the policy (isn't it always?) and he shut down my boiler. I didn't sign a contract with HES but with E.ON, which as far as I know did not exclude the sludge issue.

I had no knowledge of the takeover and feel that the original contract should stand. In the meantime, I've been left with no heating or hot water which, as a terminal cancer sufferer, isn't much fun in a very cold Manchester! Can you help? SC, Manchester

We were not overly surprised that your boiler insurance cover had failed to come to your aid. However, we were shocked that a customer who is listed as a "priority" because of your medical history had apparently been left by HES without any heating at a time when there was snow on the ground.

In fairness to HES, we rang it at around 4pm to alert it to your plight and it had someone round to your home that evening to supply some much-needed heating, and an engineer fixed the problem the following day.

The company, which took over E.ON's boiler cover business through a management buyout, says its notes - inexplicably - indicate that you were not living in the house, even though you have been there for more than 20 years and have been paying for insurance cover at that address since 2006. It also thought the house belonged to your late mother - again, inexplicably.

It says it only became aware of the true situation when we contacted it. Interestingly, it had carried out the boiler's annual service a few weeks prior to the breakdown, at which point possible sludge was not mentioned, nor any signs detected.

The company may not have covered itself in glory at the start of this claim but it has since very much made up for this. HES has now replaced the diverter valve, carried out a full survey of the central heating system, power flushed the system and got it working properly. It has used a "hardship fund" that it has recently set up to pay for the work - even though it says your problem was not covered by the original agreement. Our TV screens seem to be overwhelmed by solicitors imploring us to claim for any little mishap, there is obviously no such thing as an accident in this modern age. Somebody is to blame and they must be made to pay!. With this in mind, it would surely be a very brave (or maybe foolish) owner of any business, be it big or small who decided that public liability insurance wasn't necessary. Clicking on the following link will answer your questions on Do I Need Public Liability Insurance?.You are very relieved to be warm again.

Has anyone else claimed on a HES boiler policy? If so, let us know what your experience was like.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number


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