Millions of households owed BILLIONS after overpaying energy firms: As the coronavirus economic impact bites, here’s how to reclaim the money…
- The amount people are in credit by is up by £230m – equivalent to 13.5%
- People are encouraged to claim the money back if they are in need of funds
- We reveal how you can claim back your credit from your energy supplier
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Nearly 13million households in Britain are owed a total of £1.7billion by energy suppliers big and small, new data has revealed.
The amount people are in credit by is up £230million – equivalent to 13.5 per cent – compared to last year, according to research from Uswitch.
This could be good news for households with limited funds, thanks to the pandemic lockdown, with 46 per cent of UK homes able to claim an average of £136 each in outstanding credit – with one in ten due a rebate of more than £200.
Nearly 13million households are owed a total of £1.7billion by their energy suppliers in the UK
Customers who pay for their energy by direct debit often find themselves in credit with their supplier as their monthly payments don’t match their gas and electricity usage.
While direct debit amounts stay the same every month, energy usage changes depending on the time of year.
This means that consumers are often in credit with their provider following the summer months, and in debt in the winter period.
One in five told the comparison website the amount they are in credit has grown since last year, with an extra 57 per cent of households reporting their energy supplier has never automatically credited their account.
Some energy providers do not automatically issue refunds to customers whose accounts are in credit, meaning any money owed can go unclaimed for months.
Many customers also don’t know how to reclaim their money – nearly half say they are unsure how to go about it with 10 per cent saying they don’t know whether they are in credit or in debt.
At the other end of the spectrum, 3.9million households are in debt to their supplier at the end of winter.
This is a total of £548million owed to providers – an average of £142 per household – which is up £20, equivalent to 16 per cent, on last year.
Another 27 per cent say their debt is higher than last year with 9 per cent moving from being in credit to now owing their supplier this year.
Worries over growing debt meant some households reduced their energy usage during winter with 30 per cent of people turning down the thermostat, 24 per cent only turning heating on at certain times and 23 per cent turning each radiator down individually.
Opinium surveyed a sample of 2,008 UK energy bill-payers on behalf of Uswitch in March 2020.
customers say they are in credit
|Percentage of customers who say they are in credit||How to reclaim credit|
|EDF Energy||£181.33||45%||Current customers can provide meter readings which can be supplied to EDF, either online, through the app or over the phone, in order to access a refund. If you have already left EDF, you can request a refund via the help and support section of the EDF website.|
|Scottish Power||£150.00||42%||If a customers annual review is based on actual meter readings and the balance is greater than one months payment or over £75, the balance will be automatically refunded. If customers wish to request a refund outside of their annual review, they will need to provide a meter reading.|
|Ovo Energy||£143.94||53%||You can ask for a refund if your balance is at least £25 more than one months Direct Debit payment. A recent meter reading will need to be provided.|
|Shell Energy (formerly First Utility)||£141.96||39%||Customers in credit can request a refund, although Shell Energy highlights that credit levels may vary throughout the year. If monthly payment amounts are too high, Shell will recommend reducing the regular payment.|
|SSE||£139.08||38%||Every six months, SSE reviews customer usage against what they are paying, with a Direct Debit review taking place annually. If the review finds that you are paying too much and are in credit, they will automatically refund you. Outside of this review period, a meter reading will need to be provided and a customer will need to fill out a refund form.|
|British Gas||£134.60||46%||British Gas will put up to £75 of your credit towards your future bills but you can request a refund online, through their live chat or your account.|
|Octopus Energy||£134.13||51%||Customers can request a refund emailing email@example.com.|
|NPower||£130.60||52%||Annual reviews take place for NPower customers. If you’ve built up a credit of £25 or more on either your gas or electricity, they will refund it automatically – as long as the statement was based on an actual meter reading. Customers can call at any time to discuss a credit refund but a meter reading will need to be provided.|
|E.ON||£129.55||48%||Customers can request a refund but a meter reading will need to be provided and future Direct Debit payments may need to change.|
|Bulb Energy||£112.86||51%||If a customers account is in credit by more than their monthly payment amount, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a refund. A meter reading will need to be provided and these can be submitted before you get in touch.|
Reclaiming funds during lockdown
During the coronavirus lockdown, customers are encouraged to think about whether they want to reclaim their credit, or use it as a buffer to help pay for the extra gas and electricity they will use while spending so much extra time at home.
The vast majority of suppliers either refund automatically or allow you to fill in a form online.
If consumers want to reclaim credit, it’s recommended that they do this via suppliers’ websites rather than calling wherever possible, as suppliers’ contact centres are extremely busy supporting more vulnerable customers.
People can also reduce their energy bills by over £400 by switching to a cheaper energy deal.
Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch, said: ‘At a time when many people are finding their finances squeezed as well as using extra gas and electricity because they have to stay at home, it will be welcome news for those who are sitting on unclaimed credit from their energy supplier.
‘More than a fifth of households say that the amount of credit or debt they’re in has increased in the last year, and we hope that providers will act quickly to make sure that direct debit payments accurately reflect energy use.’