Thousands of households are owed money from their energy supplier of more than £100, new data suggests.
This is energy paid for by direct debit and then not used – and people are being urged to check whether they are due a refund.
One in 10 households could be due more than £200 back from their provider, comparison website Uswitch has calculated.
Households paying via direct debit may have paid for more energy than they used
If you pay for your energy by direct debit, a set monthly figure is taken each month to cover your energy usage.
This is based on meter readings, data from a smart meter or an assumption based on how many people live in the house and its size.
But often, households use less than they pay for and may end up being in credit to their supplier.
Uswitch suggests that the average figure owed is £121 per household.
This is based on it asking 2,000 people how much they were currently in credit, with eight per cent saying they were in credit of more than £200.
It also said many suppliers are failing to automatically refund customers who have a surplus in their account and 54 per cent of those asked said they had to chase their supplier for a refund.
Just three out of the Big Six energy suppliers automatically refund balances while the rest require consumers to call, go online, or fill out a form in order to do this.
After the winter months, when households generally use more energy, it’s rare for energy accounts to be in a surplus.
It’s much more common for this to happen after the summer months when energy usage is lower.
The website says it may be the case that energy suppliers overestimated the amount households would use this winter and therefore households ended up paying more, or that households were better prepared for the colder months.
Of those asked, 69 per cent said they had taken action to reduce their energy costs this winter and 31 per cent did this by turning down the thermostat.
A quarter lowered the temperature of individual radiators and 22 per cent only turned on the heating when it was really cold.
One of the major reasons for households paying too much, or too little, is not giving regular meter readings.
When asked, 10 per cent said they gave a meter reading less than twice a year, and five per cent said they had never given one.
Taking regular readings, whether you do this manually, have someone from your energy firm come over and read the meter, or if you have a smart meter, means you should receive more accurate bills.
If you find you are in credit to your supplier, you can contact it and ask for this money to be paid back.
The table below shows the process for the main suppliers and website MyEnergyCredit, set up by UKPower, has more help.
|Provider||How to reclaim credit|
|British Gas||Credit will be automatically refunded if over £75 after one year, as long as a meter reading has been provided. If your account is less than £75 in credit, you can still request a refund.|
|E.ON||A meter reading will need to be provided and future direct debit payments may need to change.|
|EDF||A meter reading will need to be provided.|
|Npower||At a customer’s annual review, credit of £5 or more on either gas or electricity accounts will be automatically refunded as long as a meter reading has been provided.|
|ScottishPower||If a customer’s annual review is based on actual meter readings and the balance is greater than one month’s payment or over £75, the balance will be automatically refunded.|
|SSE||A meter reading will need to be provided and a customer will need to fill out a refund form.|
|First Utility||Credit over £10 will be automatically refunded after one year, customers can request credit back at other times through their online account.|
|OVO||Account balances in credit receive 3-5 percent interest. Accounts must be more than 90 days old and have an active direct debit to be eligible for a refund. The minimum refund amount is £25, and the account must have enough credit to cover one direct debit payment, plus an extra £25 to request a refund. A recent meter reading will need to be provided.|
You can request this money back from your supplier and then earn interest interest on it
Given the current spate of price rises from the big energy suppliers, and the rise in wholesale costs, it’s likely your energy bills will rise this year and therefore if you’re requesting the extra credit back, it’s important to make sure you will be able to afford your bills if they do rise.
If you don’t think you’ll have the extra cash to cover a higher bill, putting the money into a savings account is a good idea as then you have it if you need it, but you’ll also earn interest on the cash.
Shona Eyre, Uswitch energy expert, says: ‘Reclaiming over £100 from your energy supplier is a big win at the end of a long, cold winter.
‘With around 11million energy customers likely to be in credit, households should check their account right now.
‘If you’re one of those owed money, then you can choose to leave it where it is as a buffer for next winter or claim it back and spend it on something you really want.
‘Before reclaiming any credit, make sure you provide a meter reading.
‘As a bare minimum, households should do this four times a year.
‘Once at the start of each season is a good way to remember.
‘With price rises coming into force over the next few months that will affect over six million customers on rip-off standard variable tariffs, consumers have even more to gain by shopping around and changing supplier.
‘And with nearly four million people having complained about their energy company in 2017, switching to a fixed deal now could save you almost £500, protect you against further price rises, and give you the option to select a supplier with better customer service.’
New rules came into force this week banning energy suppliers from back billing customers beyond 12 months if it’s the provider’s fault.
The new rule came into force on May 1 and it means no energy firm can bill a consumer for energy used more than 12 months ago, as long as it was not the customer’s fault that the bill is incorrect.
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