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Utility providers bank almost £1billion on customers’ inertia

20 May 2013

Gocompare.com urges consumers to take action to reclaim overpaid utility credits now ahead of smaller summer bills.

As new research reveals that nearly half (47%) of Brits have a positive balance on their gas or electricity bills, comparison website Gocompare.com urges customers to review their utility accounts and reclaim their hard earned cash.

The research commissioned by Gocompare.com found that on average customers who are in credit to utility suppliers are owed £78.50, while one in five have a credit balance of £100 or more, meaning that utility providers are profiting from nearly a whopping £1billion in overpaid bills*.

Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed said that their gas and electricity accounts were in credit because they pay their bills by direct debt.  In addition, the research revealed that direct debit payments accounted for 39% of Brits overpaying their phone bills too.

 Commenting on the research, Jeremy Cryer from Gocompare.com said: "Paying utility bills by direct debit can be a good way of saving money as most suppliers offer discounts to customers paying in this way.  However, the method suppliers use to calculate DD payments can lead to customers paying way more than they need to.  By overpaying bills you are effectively giving a free loan to your utility supplier, when your money could be working harder for you.

"Suppliers calculate the amount you pay based on an estimate of your annual consumption, this is then usually divided into 12 equal payments and charged monthly.   While DDs can help your household budgeting by smoothing out seasonal variations in energy usage, if the estimation of usage has been set too high, a sizeable surplus can quickly build up.  Also, once a direct debt has been set up, it's easy to forget about it as your bills are paid automatically and many people don't think to review the amount they are paying."

Jeremy Cryer continued, "Regularly reading your gas and electricity meters to check your actual energy consumption, as well as reviewing your phone bills, will help make sure that you don't over pay on these outgoings.  Energy usage is seasonal, so if you find that your account is in surplus after your heavier usage winter bills have been paid, then it's time to contact your provider to ask for a refund and for the level of future DD payments to be reduced.  Also, when reviewing your utility bills, it's worth taking a bit of extra time to just check that you're not paying over the odds, particularly for gas and electricity, which account for some of our biggest household expenses.  Switching energy suppliers isn't as difficult as you may think and you could save up to £449.19 a year**."  

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Notes to Editors:

On the 19-20 March 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,011 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

*£1bn is based on the average credit balance (£78.50) multiplied by the 47% of 26.3 million UK households (ONS 2011) who say they have an overpaid utility bill.  47% of 26.3m = 12.36m households.  £78.50 x 12.36m = £970,599,252.

**Based on customers who switched energy supplier for both gas and electricity (dual fuel) using the Energylinx powered Gocompare.com platforms during the 1st January- 31st March 2013. At least 10% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with Gocompare.com saved £449.19 or more