3rd November 2015
Homeowners are owed a total of £980 million in overpaid energy bills, new figures show.
The data from GoCompare.com, the comparison website, reveals that 10.4m people are owed on average £95 each in overpaid gas and electricity bills.
It says that 61% of homeowners are in credit with their energy suppliers and a quarter of those are owed over £100 despite new rules designed to stop large balances building up.
Of homeowners in credit, 24% said their energy supplier had refunded the overpayment without being asked to, while 19% o asked their provider to reduce their monthly direct debit payments.
Meanwhile, 40% of homeowners usually leave the overpayment to sort itself out over time and 13% asked for a refund.
Tom Wilson, Gocompare.com’s energy spokesman, says: “Direct debit payments are a quick and easy way to pay your utility bills; they help smooth out seasonal variations in energy usage by spreading payments equally over the year. And, customers paying by this method can usually benefit from a discounted rate.
“Energy companies calculate direct debit bills following an estimate of a customer’s annual energy consumption, which is then usually charged monthly in 12 equal payments. While a small overpayment at the end of the summer months can be useful to off-set higher energy usage and bills for the winter, if the estimated usage has been set too high, a large surplus can quickly build up.
“Typically, energy companies review direct debit accounts twice a year and make any adjustments to the monthly payments accordingly. Where accounts are found to be £5 in credit at the review date, most of the big six energy companies give customers an automatic refund – provided the calculations are based on an actual meter reading. For example, British Gas will give an automatic credit refund for accounts with a credit balance of £5 if the actual meter reading has been received in the last four months, while E.ON requires a balance of £5 provided they have received a meter reading in the last six months.”
Wilson adds: “Energy companies are also obliged to refund overpayments whenever customers request them to. So if at any time you find that you have a surplus on your energy bills you can contact your supplier to ask for it to be repaid to you, but again, you’ll need to provide an up-to-date meter reading.”