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Energy companies bank £1.2 billion in overpaid bills

02 May 2014

As new research reveals that half of UK households has a credit balance on their gas or electricity bills, comparison website Gocompare.com urges customers to review their energy accounts and reclaim their hard earned cash.

  • 50% of households are in credit with their gas and electricity suppliers
  • Millions of gas and electricity customers are owed an average of £90.20 in overpaid bills
  • 29% per cent of households are owed in excess of £100

The survey found that, on average, customers with a positive balance on their utility bills are owed £90.20, while 29% have a credit balance in excess of £100.  This means that utility providers are profiting from a staggering £1.2billion in overpaid bills*. 

Gocompare.com energy spokesperson Jeremy Cryer, commented: "Many UK households pay their gas and electricity bills by direct debit, which can be a good way of saving money because most providers offer discounts to customers paying in this way.  But the method energy suppliers use to calculate direct debit payments can result in customers paying much more than they need to. 

"Energy companies calculate the amount you owe based on an estimate of your annual energy consumption.  This is then usually divided into 12 equal payments and billed monthly.   While direct debits can help to smooth out seasonal variations in energy usage, if the estimated usage has been set too high, a large surplus can quickly build up, especially over the summer when consumption tends to be lighter.  While many people prefer to carry a 'summer surplus' to cushion higher winter bills, if you find your account is in credit after your winter bills have been paid you should contact your energy provider to ask for your money back.  It's also likely that your direct debit payment has been set too high, so give a current meter reading and ask for your future direct debit payments to be reduced if possible.

"Of course, many people will have their overpayments automatically refunded as five suppliers - EDF Energy, British Gas, First Utility, Npower and SSE - changed their policies in February of this year to automatically refund customers with any credit on their account, having previously only done so for customers who requested refunds or who had balances of up to £100 or more. These refunds will be processed either a year after you signed up to a specific tariff, or as soon as you switch to a new supplier, whichever comes first.

"E.on also automatically refunds customers that pay by direct debit and who are £5 or more in credit, and Scottish Power does the same for those who are either £75 or more in credit, or who have had a balance of any amount for over a month. However, if you have a credit balance and want it returned to you, you're entitled to ask for it at any time - it's better in your bank account than your energy supplier's after all.

"To avoid paying too much for your energy you can check your actual energy consumption by regularly reading your gas and electricity meters. Also, when reviewing your energy bills it's worth taking the time to check that you only pay for the gas and electricity you have used.  Switching suppliers isn't difficult and you could make significant savings, with at least 51% of Gocompare.com customers who switch their energy provider saving £208.13 or more**."
For more help on understanding your energy bill or switching your energy supplier read our comprehensive energy guides.

Notes to editors:

On 10th April 2014, Gocompare.com conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults aged 18+ who are Springboard UK panellists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current social grade, age, gender and region data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to cell rounding

*The £1.2bn figure is based on the average credit balance of £90.20 multiplied by the 50% of 26.4 million households in the UK (ONS 2012) who say they have an overpaid utility bill.  50% of 26.4m = 13.2m households.  £90.20 x 13.2m = £1.2bn.

** Between 01 October 2013 and 31 December 2013, at least 51% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas and electricity with Gocompare.com saved £208.13 or more