Avoid incorrect energy bills

14 April 2010

Three in 10 households have been billed incorrectly by their energy provider in the past two years.

Research by uSwitch.com found that energy firms are the worst culprits for getting bills wrong, ahead of HM Revenue and Customs, banks and council tax departments. It shows more than 11 million households have unexpectedly owed money to their energy supplier following a discrepancy between an estimated bill and the amount actually due.

On average, billing inaccuracies take more than two months to resolve although 36% are sorted out within a week. The average amount owed following a billing discrepancy is now £153 - £11 or 8% higher than in 2009.

USwitch.com says that as a result of inaccuracies more households are taking matters into their own hands by providing their own meter readings. Almost three-quarters of households (71%) have read their own meter in the past six months compared with 64% in 2009.

Overall however the number of households who have been billed inaccurately has fallen in the past 12 months (down to 30% from 35%) and the speed in which problems are resolved has improved.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Clearly there’s a long way to go before the energy industry lays the ghost of bad billing to rest, but there is some hope here. The fact that more households are providing suppliers with meter readings will play no small part in improving the accuracy of our energy bills.

"This is consumer power at its best with people taking matters into their own hands to ensure that their bills are accurate and up-to-date. As more of us get into the habit of doing this regularly we should start to see a marked improvement in both the quality of our bills and the reputation of the providers,” she says.

To check you’re not being billed too much it’s important to supply meter readings to your energy supplier on a regular basis. If you’re on an online tariff your supplier will email you and ask for your meter readings every quarter.

If you’re not on an online tariff then your supplier might use estimated readings based on past use or typical figures.

If you’ve been making an effort to use less energy this could mean you pay more than you should, but if you’re using more energy than normal you could be stung next time your energy supplier comes to take a meter reading.

To avoid this make sure you’re energy supplier is using accurate meter readings. If they send you a bill using estimates, take meter readings and then call them and ask for the bill to be recalculated.

It’s also a good idea to check you are on the cheapest energy tariff every six months or so. Try the Moneywise Energy Switcher to find the cheapest supplier in your area and arrange the switchover.

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