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Iresa customers face big unexpected payments

Which? gives you the steps you can take if you're affected

Are you an Iresa customer facing a surprise direct debit increase or one-off payment of hundreds of pounds? If so, you’re not alone. Read on to find out what’s happening and where you stand.

We’ve seen reports from tens of Iresa customers about one-off payments that Iresa states it will take at the end of January.

Some customers have reported being notified that they must pay hundreds of pounds.

Meanwhile, some customers are struggling to get through on the phone, being told that they’re in a long queue.

If you’re an Iresa customer, check your email and online account to find out whether you’re affected.

Read on to find out what to do if you’re an Iresa customer facing a one-off payment. Or use Which? Switch to compare gas and electricity prices to see if you could get a better deal.

Iresa one-off payments

An email to an Iresa customer seen by Which? states: ‘Iresa Limited is charging you £157 for One-off payment For Energy Supply to Iresa’ (sic).

It states that the payment will be taken on 31 January, four days after the email was sent. The same customer was told that their direct debit payments were increasing. However, this customer was not aware they were in debt to Iresa.

Customers were also emailed about the change two weeks earlier, Iresa told us, though the email did not state the amount of the payment.

Customers have taken to Twitter, Facebook, MoneySavingExpert and other online forums with the same story. Some report being asked for more than £600 as a one-off payment. Some state that they are in credit to Iresa.

When we asked Iresa to explain, it told us: ‘We review our customers’ accounts periodically, and following review of usage the direct debit level is adjusted to reflect usage, and a balancing charge is made to settle the account. A one-off payment is requested to cover the charges against the bill in line with this balancing charge.’

It added: ‘If customers have any questions regarding their bill, we are happy to help and encourage them to get in contact via phone, email or on our social media pages. We are actively looking into all cases and will get back to all queries as soon as possible.’

Do I have to pay?

First, check whether you’re in debt or credit to Iresa for your gas and electricity. Check your online account, take a meter reading and send it to Iresa.

Contact Iresa – we think it’s unacceptable for a company to be in a position where it’s notifying customers that it’s taking such large sums from their account in such a short timescale. Customer can contact Iresa by emailing home@iresa.co.uk or by phoning 0115 727 0982. Keep a copy of any emails you send, or what you’re told on the phone, in case you need to refer to it later.

However, we’ve heard that some customers are struggling to get in contact (see below).

I’m in credit – what should I do?

If you’re not in debt, cancel your direct debit and ask your bank to block the payment. You have rights under the direct debit guarantee that protect you if there is an error in your direct debit.

Emails from the company state: ‘You have the right to cancel your Direct Debit at any time’. And customers online say that they have done exactly this.

If the payment has already been taken, you can ask your bank to use chargeback to retrieve it. This works where a company has money in the bank.

If you’re unable to resolve your complaint, or to get a response from the company within a reasonable timescale (say, 14 days), you can take your complaint to the Ombudsman. Find out how the energy ombudsman can help.

I’m in debt – what should I do?

If you owe Iresa for your gas and electricity but can’t afford to pay, contact it using the details above.

All energy suppliers follow a code of practice that means they must take certain steps, such as starting a repayment plan, before they can cut off your supply. Find out more about help if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills.

Iresa told us: ‘We offer a repayment plan for a maximum of 6 months on a case by case basis. The length of repayment takes into account the customer’s payment history (have they been consistent or have they had history of previous payment cancellations without good reason).’

Submit meter readings to ensure that your bills are calculated as accurately as possible.

Energy regulator Ofgem said: ‘We are aware of these concerns and are discussing these issues with Iresa. Suppliers must take customers’ ability to pay debt into account when setting up repayment plans. They must also make it easy for customers to contact them and have customer service arrangements and processes which are fit for purpose.’

Iresa customer service

We’ve also heard about customers waiting for long periods on the phone to get through to Iresa. When we phoned, at 10am on 30 January, we were told that we were number 51 in the queue.

Iresa told us: ‘We apologise to the customers who have been unable to get in contact. This is temporary and we are currently looking into the issue.’

In our recent energy customer satisfaction survey, Iresa finished 16th out of 31 firms included. This is the first year it was included, and customers rated it as OK for online customer service. We didn’t receive enough responses to rate its customer service on the phone, but customers rated it as excellent value for money. Read our full review of Iresa.

Iresa often offers among the cheapest dual-fuel deals on the market. But in April 2017 Iresa stopped accepting customers for a couple of months, after energy regulator Ofgem found that current customers were struggling to get in contact with the company.

Update 31 January: Ofgem quote added, and clarification that Iresa emailed customers about one-off payments and direct debit increases two weeks in advance, though the amounts were not included in the emails.

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