I’ve switched supplier but I’ve been hit with a “back bill”. What do I do?

by Tim Deakin Domestic Energy News

I’ve switched supplier but I’ve been hit with a “back bill”. What do I do?

If you receive a bill you weren’t expecting, make sure you do your research before paying up

Have you ever been sent a “catch up” bill from your supplier asking you to pay for energy you’ve used but supposedly haven’t paid for?

For many of us, getting a back bill like this is a familiar problem. In fact, despite that fact that Ofgem regulations ban suppliers from charging customers for energy used more than 12 months previously if the error is theirs, some companies continue to send out these bills.

What’s more, research recently found that two out of 10 households have been wrongly billed by their supplier in the last two years, and 11% have had this happen multiple times. So it’s vital that, if you get a back bill through the door, you work out whether you actually need to pay it.

Why are you being charged for old usage?

Back bills are almost always the result of billing errors, and there are many ways that these can come about.

For one thing, many households rely on estimated meter readings, and only supply accurate meter readings when asked for them by their supplier. This can lead to customers underpaying, or even overpaying, on their bills. These underpayments can go noticed for months, resulting in a back bill.

Sometimes, back bills can be the result of one-off mistakes made by your supplier. For example, say you call your supplier to have your direct debit amount reviewed. Instead, an internal error causes your direct debit to be cancelled altogether. If this were to go unnoticed by both you and your supplier for months, it could lead to a back bill which asks you to pay all your missed payments at once.

The Ofgem Back-Billing Principle

As we mentioned earlier, Ofgem has regulations in place which deal specifically with back bill. This Back-Billing Principle states that “if your supplier is at fault, it will not seek additional payment for unbilled energy used more than 12 months prior to the error being detected and a corrected bill being issued.”

In other words, if suppliers fail to notice their own mistake for a year or more, they can’t then ask you to pay to put it right.

So do you have to pay your back bill?

According to the Ofgem principle, you should challenge a back bill if:

  • Your supplier has failed to bill you even though you’ve requested bills from them
  • Your back bill is based on estimated meter readings rather than valid readings you’ve provided
  • Your supplier incorrectly billed you by mixing up meter readings and failed to put this right
  • Your supplier failed to do anything about a query you’ve raised, instead allowing a large debt to build up
  • Your supplier failed to reassess a request to change your direct debit within 15 months, or failed to reassess based on a reasonable estimate

The Back-Billing Principle does not apply to you if:

  • You have been using the gas and electricity supply but have made no effort to contact the supplier. This may happen when you move into a new property
  • You have wilfully avoided payment
  • You have failed to cooperate with attempts to obtain meter readings or resolve queries requested by the supplier

If you do think that you’ve been unfairly billed, your first step should be to contact your energy supplier and follow their complaints-handling procedure. If you are unsuccessful, you can move onto the next step which is to contact Citizens Advice.

Need help switching your energy supplier? You’re in the right place. The Energy Check compares the whole of the market to find you the very best deal. Click here to start searching or get in touch today by calling 0800 031 48 00.

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