An estimated 2.1 million people have been charged an average of £206 in the past year because they’ve been underpaying on their energy bill, with 15% facing charges of more than £250, according to Citizens Advice.
Although the average charge is around £206 for a back bill – which is a revised bill that is sent out by an energy company after undercharging – some people have been sent bills requesting four figure sums.
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Energy company back bills: your rights
Back bills are issued when someone has been undercharged by their energy company. This could be because an estimated billing has been too low, because the customer couldn’t make payments or because of a fault of the energy company.
Under the ‘back billing code’ energy suppliers can only charge you for a maximum of up to 12 months of incorrect payments. But this only applies if you have contacted your supplier and asked for a bill to be sent or co-operated with requests from your supplier, such as letting someone read your meter.
You can be charged for longer periods of time if the supplier argues it’s your fault, for example, if you have willfully not paid your bills.
If you believe you’re being charged for longer than you should be then write to your energy supplier explaining that you are protected by the code of practice. If the supplier still tries to charge you, make a complaint through its official complaints procedure.
An energy supplier should also help you to set up a payment plan if you’re unable to pay a back bill in one go – see our guide to difficulty with paying energy bills for more information.
Save on your energy bill
It’s a good idea to give your energy supplier regular meter readings to avoid issues like this and to ensure you’re paying what you should be.
Having a smart meter, which sends exact meter readings straight to your energy supplier, could also help prevent the nasty surprise of a large back bill. The government is rolling out smart meters nationally in April 2016, but some energy companies have started fitting them for their customers.
You can find out more about smart meters and the roll out in our guide to smart meters explained.
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