Get your money back for incorrect bills
Recent research by uSwitch.com found energy companies are the worst culprits for sending customers incorrect bills. But how do you go about claiming compensation if you’ve been billed incorrectly?
In 2005, new standards for energy bills were introduced to make things easier for consumers. The Code of Practice for Accurate Bills, put together by the Energy Retail Association, said that:
• Energy suppliers should try and read meters at least every two years. If it can’t access your meter, it should ask you to take a meter reading.
• If you don’t receive a bill for more than a year, and it’s the energy supplier’s fault, you don’t have to pay any outstanding debt for energy used more than a year ago.
On top of this, the Limitations Act 1980 prevents you being charged for gas or electricity used more than six years ago. In Scotland the limit is five years.
The best way to make sure you’re billed correctly by your gas or electricity company is to provide regular meter readings.
If your supplier bases bills or direct debit payments on estimated readings then you can call them and ask for the bill to be recalculated with up-to-date meter readings.
If it turns out you owe the energy company a substantial amount of money it should agree to work out a repayment plan with you so you’re not forced to pay off the amount in one go.
If the energy company owes you money you can ask for it back or for the amount to be deducted from future bills. However, Consumer Focus says that for most claims you can only backdate them for 12 months, so it's important to take action as soon as you think you've been billed incorrectly.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, says: “The energy industry still falls far short of its peers, but suppliers have been working hard to make it easier than ever for consumers to provide their own readings.
"This can be done online, over the phone, by post or even text. Consumers should aim to provide a reading once a quarter - failure to do so can result in receiving an estimated bill, which is where many of the issues relating to accuracy lie.
"It may seem like a pain, but it really is in all our interests to make sure that suppliers are using up-to-date information on our bills," she says.
If you have a complaint about the accuracy of your energy bill you should complain to your supplier in the first instance. If they don’t resolve your complaint you can take it to the Energy Ombudsman.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.