British Gas has served a writ on Accenture for £182 million, over a billing system which it said had “fundamental errors”.

The utility said the Jupiter system, which cost £300 million and which rolled out in 2006 to 2007, was problematic and resulted in issues that “severely impacted” on its customer service department.

In a statement, it said: “In 2001 British Gas employed Accenture to undertake the design and implementation of a new customer billing system. However, when this new system was rolled out during 2006 to 2007 it became apparent that there were problems with the system which severely impacted on British Gas’ customer service operations.”

As a result of the problems, British Gas said customer complaints rose sharply, and it had to make investments to improve the technology. “Since Accenture left the programme, British Gas has managed to stabilise its customer service and customer complaints to [watchdog] energywatch have fallen by 85 per cent,” it said.

An independent analysis had concluded that Accenture was responsible for “fundamental errors” in the design and implementation of the system, it said.

“As a direct consequence British Gas was forced to make significant investments to address the system failures and these investments are ongoing. It also incurred significant additional staff costs to manage the customer service issues."

But Accenture strongly rebuffed the accusations, saying that the system it delivered met the specifications set in the contract, and was delivered on time and on budget. It said Centrica had extensively tested the system before accepting it.

“We are confident based on the facts of the situation that this claim is baseless and without merit. Accenture will vigorously defend the High Court proceedings,” it said.

The IT services firm said Centrica was responsible for the design, and had taken over responsibility in March 2006 as the system went live. This responsibility meant Centrica conducted testing, it said, including aspects of the system that would have enabled British Gas to determine workflows and the associated staff requirements.

“Accenture rejects responsibility for the situation Centrica created," it continued. "Centrica directed the design, build and implementation of the Jupiter system and insisted on many of the features they now find problematic.”

British Gas is not the only large company taking an IT services provider through the courts over a customer system. Broadcaster BSkyB is suing EDS for £709 million, claiming that EDS misrepresented its abilities to deliver a customer relationship management system. EDS denies the charges, and saying BSkyB “did not know what it wanted” from the system, changing its requirements as the system was rolled out.

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