Energy customers overcharged by £102m last year

uSwitch says billing errors and compensation delays are 'unacceptable' as it calls for clampdown

Energy bills
(Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

As many as 1.3 million households may have been overcharged to the tune of nearly £102m for their energy use last year because of billing errors, according to uSwitch.

The energy price comparison website commissioned Opinium to research more than 2,000 adults and ask them about any bills that were higher than expected last year.

Close to five per cent of respondents said that surprise bumper bills were due to a "mistake" by the energy company. Taking into account all 26 million energy bill payers in the UK this would equate to around 1.3 million errors.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

On average these customers reported being overcharged by £79, which would add up to a total of £102m.

"One in three of those affected said their bills did not match their meter readings, while a quarter said the amount they were charged did not add up correctly," says Sky News.

"Other mistakes included households receiving someone else's bill, incorrect fees being charged and energy suppliers getting direct debit amounts wrong."

Worse, respondents said that on average it took 35 days to get their money back after reporting an error. A third said it had taken more than two months and seven per cent "are either still waiting or have given up".

Sky adds: "The total cost of errors may even be greater with more than a quarter of customers admitting to not examining their bills properly – if at all."

uSwitch is calling on the energy regulator Ofgem to take action. This includes forcing companies to be clearer on whether bills are based on actual meter readings, establishing if customers are on the standard tariff and compensating mistakes within a month.

Ofgem says it has already acted on billing mistakes and levied fines worth £40m in the past two years. It says that existing rules require firms to state clearly whether bills are based on estimated energy use.

It added: "Smart meters will address the issue of estimated readings as these consumers will be billed based on their actual energy usage."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.