Why you should read your energy bills

If you don't read your gas and electricity bills, you should - and here's why.

Key points

  • Regularly check your gas and electricity meters, inform your supplier and check the readings when your bill comes through
  • If you don't check bills you risk underpaying or overpaying - both can cause you problems
  • Staying on top of bills can alert you to when tariffs change and you're paying more for your energy than you should be
  • There are big savings to be made by switching to the right tariff, and the switching process is simple

Out of sight, out of mind, so the saying goes.

And if you're not reading your energy bills, you might not be giving a great deal of thought to how much you're paying or how much energy you're using.

This is one of the reasons why so many people miss out on energy savings by not switching gas and electricity suppliers.

Energy tops the poll of bills which most baffle customers.

Gocompare.com research found that electricity bills are the ones we find most puzzling, followed closely by gas, and many customers are convinced that suppliers keep tariffs confusing on purpose.

It's therefore very tempting to shove your gas and electricity bills to the back of the drawer, or delete them as soon as they ping into your inbox.

But that's not such a good idea. Once you understand your energy bills, you might feel more inclined to read them - and here's why you should...

You might be underpaying

Underpayments usually stem from the fact that the energy firm has based the bill on estimated, rather than actual, energy use.How to save money on energy

This might sound like great news for the customer but it could lead to a bill of hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds in the long run.

Energy companies are entitled to back-bill customers if they can show they've made reasonable attempts to take your meter reading.

This is set out in the Code of Practice for Accurate Bills, which was developed by the Energy Retail Association and some of the leading energy suppliers.

The silver lining for customers comes if they can show that they're not at fault for the wrong figure.

For example, they might have provided the correct reading but the supplier's calculation might still be wrong, or the supplier might not have billed them frequently enough.

In these cases, the energy firm can only back-bill for the last 12 months, not for energy used more than a year ago.

To ensure you're not underpaying, read your gas and electricity meters regularly and check the readings against your bills.

If the estimate on the bill is wrong, get in touch with your supplier and give them the accurate reading. They should then adjust the bill accordingly.

Remember that we tend to use more energy in the winter months, and if you pay a fixed monthly tariff you might find your account is in credit in the summer, only for your bill to balance out when the weather gets colder.

You might be overpaying

Again, if your bill is based on estimates, you might be overpaying.

Energy prices change regularly and new tariffs are constantly being introduced, so keep up to date with the best deals by using an energy price comparison tool

If the bill is wrong in your favour, you're entitled to a refund from the energy company.

However, this can sometimes prove a long process, with time and money spent by the consumer on phone calls, emails and letters.

In the meantime, overpayments are building up interest in the energy firm's bank account rather than yours.

By regularly reading your meter and double checking it against the energy usage shown on your bill, you can avoid overpaying in the first place.

You might not be paying at all

This again sounds fantastic, but unfortunately few things in life are free - and energy isn't one of them!

Whether you're unwittingly not paying for your gas or electricity, or whether you're trying to pull the wool over the energy firm's eyes by - for example, not telling them you've moved into a property and are using the energy supply - the same back-billing principles as above apply.

The onus is on the consumer to arrange payment with the fuel supplier. If you don't, the energy firm is within its rights to back-bill you for the full amount of energy used.Small energy suppliers

You might be on the wrong energy tariff

You might think your energy supplier will automatically switch you to new, better tariffs as they become available, but that's unlikely to be the case.

Regularly comparing tariffs between suppliers is the surest way to save yourself money.

Energy prices change regularly and new tariffs are constantly being introduced, so keep up to date with the best deals by using an energy price comparison tool.

To get an accurate quote, it helps to know your current energy usage - which, of course, you will if you've paid attention to your latest energy bill!

If you're worried about your energy bill or have any queries, your energy supplier should be able to answer all your questions and offer advice.

If you've given your supplier the chance to resolve an issue and you're still not satisfied, find out more from the energy ombudsman.

By Rebecca Lees