Billing mistakes made by energy companies cost UK consumers more than £100m over the last year, data to be published today suggests.
Nearly 1.3m energy customers were overcharged in the last year due to supplier mistakes, with the average household charged an extra £79 for a total of £102m, according to a survey by consumer group uSwitch.
Almost one in three of those affected, or 28 per cent, said they were charged for an amount that did not match the meter readings they had supplied while a quarter, or 26 per cent, said their bill did not add up correctly.
Less common billing blunders included suppliers getting direct debit amounts wrong, applying incorrect fees, getting tariff or product details wrong and mixing up one bill with someone else's.
On average it took customers 35 days to resolve the issue and get the money back, but that was when they noticed there had been a mistake. A quarter of consumers, or 27 per cent, admitted they do not read their energy bills properly.
"Customers having to pay the price for suppliers’ mistakes is unacceptable. Households are already feeling the pinch from recent energy price rises, and having to chase for an average of 35 days to get their money back simply adds insult to injury," said Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.
uSwitch called on Ofgem and energy suppliers to improve the design of energy bills to help customers understand what they are paying for.
An Ofgem spokesperson said suppliers had paid out over £40m as a result of its investigations into billing failures, and the watchdog continues to monitor the market.
We are working with suppliers to make bills easier to understand and Ofgem’s rules already require suppliers to make clear on bills whether they are based on a customer’s actual or estimated energy usage.
Smart meters will address the issue of estimated readings as these consumers will be billed based on their actual energy usage.
Energy prices heat up
The latest UK firm to hike prices was British Gas owner Centrica, which revealed it would increase electricity prices by 12.5 per cent from September earlier this month.
The price hike will send the average annual duel fuel bill for a typical household on a standard tariff to £1,120.
Although the firm argued it hadn't increased its prices for four years, it was criticised for lifting prices during the colder months when demand will spike.