Personal Finance

Energy billpayers urged to make change to direct debit as £3bn overpaid in 'broken system'

UK energy suppliers are sitting on more than £3 billion worth of unused customer credit.

Bill payers are being urged to reclaim credit sitting in their accounts after it was estimated suppliers could have made more than £159m in interest from customer overpayments over a year.

Nearly a third of UK households (32%) are in credit to their energy supplier all year, campaigners Warm This Winter say.

The pressure group is urging Britons to join their Big Energy Credit Claim Back campaign, saying early summer is the perfect time to reset direct debit payments for the year ahead.

Warm This Winter spokesperson Fiona Waters said: “Energy companies are sitting on over £3 billion of bill payers’ money whilst providing an appalling service in many cases and making billions in profits.

“The Big Energy Claim Back is a way people who pay by direct debit can issue a wake up call to companies that customers are not prepared to be ripped off anymore and demand energy suppliers provide a fit for purpose service."

Research by the campaign suggests 38% of those in permanent credit for their gas and electricity bills live in households with low incomes and may have cut back on energy use or other essentials because the direct debits set by energy firms are too high.

While it can be sensible to build up credit over the summer months to pay for higher energy use over winter, customer credit balances are not accurate enough, experts, such as Martin Lewis, have said.

Already more than 12,000 people have pledged to take part in the revolt, which has been launched in collaboration with political activist group 38 Degrees.

Matthew McGregor, CEO at 38 Degrees, said: “Claiming back the cash we’ve been overcharged is a simple way for busy people to show energy companies they are sick of this broken energy system."

Simon Francis coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added: “Of course, customers should use caution when claiming back as their direct debits may be increased by their energy firm - but making sure a supplier has a regular meter reading is the best way to ensure accurate bills.”

Warm This Winter has published a guide with advice on how to reclaim energy bill credit as well as what to watch out for.

The group is keen to stress to customers not to cancel their direct debits completely as they may be moved onto a higher tariff.

The group has issued the following guidance for consumers:

  • Ensure your meter readings are up to date.
  • Check your energy bill or online account and see whether you are in credit or debit.
  • If you are in credit, contact your energy company to request it back.

An Ofgem spokeswoman said: "Most customers build up credit during the warmer summer months which helps spread costs through the cold winter months when they use more energy.

"However, while reasonable credit balances can help people manage their bills, consumers have the right to request credit back and should discuss their individual circumstances with their supplier.

"If customers are requesting credit is returned but not receiving it, they should complain to the supplier and then the independent Energy Ombudsman."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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