The energy crisis has been in the news almost constantly in recent times, and while you may have made every effort to make your home as energy efficient as possible and to reduce the amount of gas and electricity you use, your energy bill is undoubtedly larger than it was 12 months ago.
At a time when every penny counts, it’s worth checking that your bill is being calculated correctly. This is especially important right now as a recent Ofgem investigation found that five out of the 17 energy companies the research focused on had ‘moderate to severe’ weaknesses or failings in the way that they charge customers direct debits, with some customers seeing an increase of more than 100% to their bill.
Here are some of the most common reasons why your bill could be incorrect — and what you can do about it.
Your bill is being estimated
Unless you have a smart meter which does it automatically, it’s important to supply your energy company with regular meter readings, otherwise your bill will be an estimation of your usage. Your bill should state if it’s estimated, and if it is, you don’t have to pay it. To receive an accurate bill that reflects your actual usage, submit a meter reading as soon as possible, which you can do via your supplier’s website, app or over the phone.
Always check your meter reading against the one your supplier has used on your bill. If there is a big difference, it’s possible that an error has been made. Contact your supplier to flag your concerns and submit a new reading.
Your meter is faulty
If you’re supplying regular meter readings but the usage stated on your bill still seems too high, you may have a faulty meter.
“Meter faults are rare, but if you do have a problem then your supplier is responsible for making sure it works properly,” said Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch. “Similarly, if you have a prepayment meter with a blank screen or showing an error message, tell your supplier straight away so this doesn’t impact your access to energy.”
If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you have the right to an independent meter reading. Visit gov.uk to request this — if there is a problem, your meter will be removed and a new one installed.
Households with smart meters generally don’t have to submit meter readings. However, some of the early smart meters, called SMETS1, have stopped working in ‘smart mode’ meaning that they are no longer submitting meter readings automatically. Your SMETS1 meter should have received an automatic upgrade that fixes this issue, but if it still isn’t working properly, contact your provider. In the meantime, you should submit meter readings yourself directly to your supplier.
What is ‘back billing’?
Back billing is when a supplier contacts a customer for a payment because they have been underbilled in the past. Thanks to Ofgem rules, you cannot be charged for energy that you used more than 12 months ago if it was the supplier’s fault that you were not billed correctly. If you receive a back bill for energy that you used more than a year ago, contact your supplier to query this.
How to complain to your energy company
If none of the above apply and you still think your bill is wrong, you should contact your energy supplier.
“In the first instance, complain to your supplier in writing so that you have the evidence to take the matter further should you need to do so,” advises Helen Dewdney, founder of The Complaining Cow website and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results.
“If you’re not satisfied with the response, you can take the matter to the Energy Ombudsman – you must wait eight weeks from when you started the complaint or request a deadlock letter. This deadlock letter will come from the supplier stating that they will not discuss the matter further. The Energy Ombudsman will then make a decision, and your supplier is bound by that decision.'”
Gather any supporting evidence — such as your energy bill or photos of your faulty meter — and your energy account number, which you can find on your most recent bill. You’ll be able to find contact details for your energy supplier on their website and you can call the Energy Ombudsman on 0330 440 1624.