Four in ten households (42%) could reclaim a collective £1.3 billion from suppliers for energy they paid for but didn’t use over the winter months.
According to research from price comparison website uSwitch, the average household paying by direct debit and in credit could stand to reclaim £117, while 7% could be owed more than £200.
It says many households may be in credit as its research found millions of consumers used less energy than they paid for over the winter. This wasn’t just down to warmer weather, as almost two-thirds (66%) of customers took some action to cut their winter energy bills, including turning down the thermostat (31%), turning down individual radiators (24%) or setting the heating to come on for less time every day (22%).
But while the largest energy suppliers typically review customers’ accounts on a yearly basis and automatically refund credit balances (based on a meter reading), you can ask for credit back sooner.
Energy regulator Ofgem says: “Suppliers must do so [refund credit] promptly, unless there are reasonable grounds not to.”
Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch, adds: “Consumers should submit an up-to-date meter reading now to find out if they’re owed cash from their energy supplier.”
Tips for managing your energy bills
To help manage your energy account, Ofgem recommends:
1. When switching supplier, have a copy of a recent bill to hand, so you can give accurate consumption information on which to base your estimated bills and direct debit payments.
2. Avoid building up credit balances on your account by giving your energy supplier regular meter readings. You can also contact your supplier and ask it to review your payment scheme in line with your estimated annual consumption.
3. Ask your supplier to replace your existing meter with a smart meter. Smart meters send meter readings automatically to suppliers so you can have accurate bills, removing one of the key reasons why credit balances can build up. Smart meters are being rolled out to all households by 2020.
4. Read your energy bills when you get them so you’re aware of your consumption, payments, and any credits you’ve built up. You can also contact your energy supplier to find out if you have a credit balance.
5. If you’re concerned about the size of your balance, you can ask your energy supplier to refund it to you.