So, working for one of the UK’s largest energy suppliers has opened my eyes to just how complicated the industry can be. Here are my top tips for energy consumers in the UK based on my experience working in the industry:
Billing and meter readings
- When you get your bill check whether it is based upon estimate or actual readings. If it’s based on an Estimate take a meter reading and phone your supplier to provide them with a more accurate reading. It’s not illegal to provide you an estimated bill, but large numbers of frequently estimated bills could mean you’re hit with a large bill when an actual bill is produced.
- Submit your own meter readings frequently to your supplier (most of the big suppliers will have a dedicated telephone line for this or you may be able to do it online as well). This will help to ensure bills you receive are as accurate as possible.
- If you get a card from the meter reader saying they missed you, then it’s a good idea to phone the number on the card and provide a meter reading – helps to ensure accurate bills.
- If you pay by Direct Debit monitor your statements to ensure that your monthly direct debit is enough to cover what you’re actually using. If you find you’re building up arrears or a credit contact your supplier to discuss your direct debit. You should normally build up a credit during the summer to help cover increased bills during winter.
- When you move into or out of a property take meter readings, phone the supplier and keep a note of these readings. This helps to ensure that everything is accurate when you move in or out
- Make sure you provide your forwarding address to the supplier when you move out – this prevents you from getting nasty letters sometime after you’ve moved out for a bill that has been sitting at your old address!
- If you’ve moved and not had your final bill from your old property within a month or so – call the supplier and find out where it is, don’t just keep waiting for it and then forget about it! You’re obliged to pay for what you use so it works both ways!
- This involves a lot more work than you may think. It can take up to six weeks for the supply to actually change after you request it – providing there are no problems along the way. In that time you’re old supplier will still be supplying you and therefore will bill you for the electricity / gas you use during that period!
- If you’re changing supplier make sure you respond to the request for a reading – whoever is taking over your supply will pass the reading onto your old supplier. If they don’t get one from you they estimate it.
- If your final bill when you change supply does end up being based on an estimate phone your old supplier with an up-to-date meter reading (or 2 readings at least 5 days apart if you don’t think you’ve had your meter read in a while or haven’t been supplying regular reads). Your old supplier will need this information in order to dispute the reading originally sent to them. Readings can only be disputed if they are equal to or more than a set number of units agreed by the industry (this is dependent upon your meter and your supplier will tell you if it’s enough to dispute or not).
- Meter readings that are over 1 year old cannot normally be used as part of a change of supply reading dispute – so please, bear that in mind.
- If you phone up to dispute the readng and you’re asked for further readings, please do supply them – you’re not being asked for these without good purpose or simply to inconvenience you!
- These are when a supplier takes over your supply without your consent. It’s usually down to an error or misunderstanding and not always down to an error by either supplier (for example, central records for the whole country accessed by all suppliers could be incorrect leading to you being changed supply rather than someone in a street with a similar name or even your next-door-neighbour)
- Contact your supplier as soon as an erroneous transfer has occurred. There is a process they can follow to get your supply back to them if that’s what you wish. There are also timescales in which to raise an erroneous transfer – trying to raise it 2 years after the transfer happened is not likely to work!
- If you receive a letter asking you to confirm that you are raising an erroneous transfer then please do respond to this – the erroneous transfer will not be requested unless you respond to this letter!
- If the new supplier rejects to the erroneous transfer contact them to discuss that further; there is not a lot the old supplier can do about it.
- Your energy supplier will have a complaints process. The ombudsman (if you’re supplier is a member) will not normally accept your complaint until this has been followed or 8 weeks have passed since you raised your complaint (16 weeks for some smaller suppliers)
- The ombudsman can only accept the complaint up to 9 months after it was raised
- The ombudsman’s decision is binding on the supplier, but not you so you can take it elsewhere if you are still not satisfied.
- Calling your supplier is a good place to start; most complaints can be dealt with quickly and easily over the telephone. If your compliant is about your bill make sure you have the bill in front of you and up-to-date meter readings when you call.
- If you’re calling the supplier and have had previous written communications with regards to your complaint, having those in front of you when you call will also help.
- Visit your supplier’s website for more information
- The ombudsman’s website is http://www.enery-ombudsman.org.uk
- You can find out whether you’re supplier is a member of the ombudsman at the following address: http://www.energy-ombudsman.org.uk/links/6-61-member_companies.php
- OFGEM are the industry regulator and do not deal directly with consumer complaints. The energy ombudsman is the place to go with a complaint.
Struggling to pay
- If you’re struggling to pay the contact your supplier straight away! You can discuss your account with them and you can come to an affordable arrangement to recover any arrears you’ve built up! This will help to prevent further charges being added to your account for the debt recovery process or legal costs.
- If you’re really struggling to pay your bills then do an Income and Expenditure form on the Citizens Advice website – this will help you work out what you can afford and your supplier may wish to see one of these.
- If you’re on active supply with the supplier you’re struggling to pay then they should normally allow you the same period to repay the arrears as they built up over (so, if you’re arrears built up over a two year period, then you should normally be allowed up to two years in whcih to pay these back)
Hopefully the above will help you to have an easy and smooth time with your energy supplier!