2nd December 2014
Energy companies are sitting on £1.5bn from customers who have overpaid on their bills, calculations by Gocompare.com have found.
A survey by the price comparison website found that millions of customers are owed an average of £96 by their electricity and gas suppliers as 61%of households are currently in credit.
The research also found that 72% of pensioners are in credit, while younger age groups are less likely to have a positive balance.
Only 22% of those surveyed said that their energy supplier had refunded the overpayment without being asked to, 15% said they had asked for a refund, while 46% said that they prefer to leave their account in credit hoping it will sort itself out over time.
Jeremy Cryer from Gocompare.com said: “Most energy suppliers offer customers discounts for settling their bills by direct debit.
“Bills are calculated following an estimate of your annual consumption, which is then usually charged monthly in 12 equal payments.
“While direct debits can help with household budgeting by smoothing out seasonal variations in energy usage, if the estimated usage has been set too high, a sizeable surplus can quickly build up. ”
Gas and electricity companies normally review direct debit accounts twice a year to see whether payments have been set at a reasonable level.
Most companies have an amount above which customers in credit will get an automatic refund.
British Gas does this when customers are £100 in credit, while E.ON does so at just £5.
Cryer adds: “Energy companies are also obliged to refund overpayments whenever their customers request them to. However, for them to consider your request you’ll need to provide an up-to-date meter reading. If the refund is withheld, the supplier must explain why and you can challenge the decision.”