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How to avoid being overcharged for energy

As energy costs continue to bite, it’s important to make sure you’re not paying more than you have to for your gas and electricity. If you think your gas or electric meter reading is too high, here are our top tips for ensuring more accurate bills.

As energy costs continue to bite, it’s important to make sure you’re not paying more than you have to for your gas and electricity. If you think your gas or electric meter reading is too high, here are our top tips for ensuring more accurate bills.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Posted
10 FEBRUARY 2020
4 min read
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My energy bill is too high – am I being overcharged?

If your energy bill is significantly higher than usual, overcharging isn’t out of the question. However, it might not always be the fault of your energy supplier. You could be overcharged because you haven’t given an accurate meter reading or because your meter is faulty.

A higher bill could also be down to wholesale price rises or changes to your lifestyle. For instance, are you working from home more than you used to or have you recently bought a new appliance that guzzles a lot of electricity?

How can I avoid my electric meter overcharging me?

There are steps you can take to help prevent inflated energy bills. Tips for avoiding overcharging include:

Submit regular meter readings 

The ideal way to avoid paying over the odds is to provide your supplier with regular meter readings. It’s easy to do and you can submit them online, by phone or using your supplier’s app. It’s recommended that you take your meter readings every month or every three months if you’re on quarterly billing.

Remember that if you don’t submit regular readings, your supplier has to estimate your energy usage, based on previous bills. This could lead to you paying for more energy than you’ve actually used.

Query your bill

It’s important to question your bill with your supplier if you suspect you’ve been overcharged or charged on the wrong tariff. You could have a strong case if the energy reading on your meter is significantly different to the reading on your latest bill. If an inflated bill is your provider’s mistake, you should be able to claim a refund.

Your supplier must respond within eight weeks. If they don’t, you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.

Become more energy efficient

Some electrical appliances, including tumble dryers, plug-in heaters and hot tubs, might cost more to run than others. You may be getting a higher bill because you’re using these more than usual, so you could try to limit their use or replace them with more energy-efficient models.

You could also check your property’s energy performance certificate (EPC), if it has one, to see how well insulated your home is. You may be able to get a government grant to install energy-saving home improvements that could save you money on your bills in the long run.

Also, read our tips on how to save energy at home.

My energy supplier is overcharging me, can I get a refund?

Yes. If your meter has caused inaccurate energy bills, you should be able to get a refund from your energy supplier. This is also the case if high bills are down to a billing error.

But if you haven’t been submitting meter readings and the overcharge is a result of estimated billing, you may not be eligible to get any money back.

So, the ideal way to avoid the issue in future is to get into the habit of providing regular meter readings – or you might want to consider a smart meter, which will automatically take care of that for you.

Could my energy meter be faulty?

If you suspect your meter is to blame for your high energy bills, there are a couple of steps you could take:

  • Try turning off all appliances for a few hours and watching the meter closely. If the numbers keep rising, there’s a good chance there’s a fault.
  • Report it to your energy supplier. They’ll send an expert to test the meter professionally.

How much does it cost to get my meter tested?

Most energy providers will test your meter for free if it’s potentially faulty. If it’s found to have a defect, they’ll also replace it and refund you any money owed for your electric meter reading being too high.

But if tests show it’s not faulty, you might have to pay for the cost of the test. There’s no set fee for this, so ask your supplier about the cost upfront in case you have to pay it.

You may be able to get around this by upgrading to a smart meter, but before you do read our smart meter guide.

Are energy companies overcharging direct debits?

There have been instances of households seeing their direct debits skyrocket by more than 100% in a year, which is why energy regulator Ofgem is keeping a close eye on this. 

Although direct debit is the cheapest way to pay energy bills, it can be very confusing for customers. This is because suppliers base monthly payments on how much energy they think you’ll use over a year so you can spread the cost. Your bills are usually managed in a way that means you build up credit over the summer months to lessen the financial burden of using more energy in winter. 

If you’re on a standard variable tariff, your supplier is well within its rights to put up your direct debit, but it should give you a legitimate reason for doing so. 

If you think you’ve been overcharged or aren’t being treated fairly by your energy provider, you can try to claim back money from them or ask to have your monthly payments lowered to reflect your energy use more accurately. 

What can I do if my electricity bill is still too high?

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, get in touch with your supplier. They’ll discuss payment options with you and check if you’re on the most suitable tariff. Many of them also run schemes that offer charitable grants that can help with debt.

It’s also worth checking whether you’re eligible for extra financial support, such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

Frequently asked questions

Is my Economy 7 meter overcharging me?

If you have an electricity meter that charges different rates during the day and night (for example, Economy 7 or Economy 10), make sure you’re being billed accurately.

It’s been known for meters to be set up incorrectly so they charge the cheaper off-peak rate during the day and the more expensive day rate at night. If you think this could be happening in your household, ask your supplier to check your meter setup.

How can I tell if my electricity use has gone up?

If you have a smart meter, you can easily compare and contrast your daily, monthly and yearly usage to see whether there have been any big increases you need to be aware of.

If you have a standard meter, you can calculate your average daily usage by taking the difference between two recent meter readings and dividing it by the number of days between the readings.

Compare this figure with two older meter readings. If your average daily usage has increased, this may be the cause of your high bills.

Can my energy supplier back-bill me for past undercharging?

It’s possible that your supplier might be overcharging you to try to correct an error it made in the past. Although they’re allowed some leeway to back-bill you for undercharging, they can’t charge you for energy that was used more than 12 months ago and not billed correctly at the time.

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