As energy regulator Ofgem's price cap comes into effect, an estimated 22 million people will start to get higher energy bills from today.
Experts and energy firms advised customers on variable tariffs to log their meter readings yesterday, to ensure they pay the lower rates for any energy used in March. But some providers' websites buckled under the pressure of customers trying to send their meter readings ahead of the new cap coming into force.
Lots of people have contacted us to let us know they've had trouble attempting to submit their meter readings on 31 March - the eve of the change. Energy firms including British Gas, EDF, Eon and Octopus reported issues with their websites and/or apps.
There's no need to panic if you haven't yet been able to send your energy company a reading. Read on to find out what you can do to ensure you're billed correctly.
Now that the increased price cap level will start affecting bills for those on variable energy tariffs (also known as standard, default and out-of-contract tariffs), any energy you use from today onwards will be charged at a higher rate than the energy you used up until today. We're therefore encouraging our readers to take a meter reading today (if you haven't done so already). This will help to ensure you're billed accurately.
You should submit this meter reading to your energy company, as doing so will mean you can cross reference your bills with your usage. And if you spot anything that doesn't look right, you can contact your supplier to question it.
But if you can't send it to your energy company because of technical issues it's experiencing, don't worry. Most will let you back date meter readings for around a week. So take a note - ideally a photograph - of your meter readings and then remember to upload them to your energy account in the coming days, making it clear which date the reading was taken on.
Some energy firms have customer service email addresses or automated phone lines through which you can send in your meter readings too. These methods may be a quicker way of submitting yours if websites are down.
What have energy suppliers said about the issues?
Companies including British Gas and Octopus Energy have communicated to customers on social media about the technical issues happening with their websites.
British Gas published a post on Twitter outlining that if any of its customers were still having difficulties sending in their readings, it can be done 'in the next couple of days' and they would still be accepted.
Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy confirmed that its customers have a week to submit their meter readings to the company, adding that it saw 10 times more meter readings being sent in compared to a typical day. Its call centre received over 80,000 customer calls, as opposed to a typical 20-30,000.
Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Editor, said:
'The severity of the cost of living crisis will really hit home for millions of people this Friday as they face hikes to their energy, broadband, mobile, water and council tax bills.
'Anyone on a variable tariff should remember to take their energy readings so they can make sure they're charged the correct amount for any energy used before the price cap hike takes effect.
'Energy companies should have been prepared for higher numbers of customers getting in touch and should support any customers trying to submit their meter readings.'
If you're worried about your bills, there are a few things you can do:
In addition, there's a £9bn package of support from the government in light of surging energy bills. It consists of three elements:
Talk to your energy supplier if you can't afford to pay your bills - it has to treat customers fairly and agree a payment plan with you that you can manage.
Your options can include a payment break, payment reduction, additional time to pay, access to hardship funds, and being added to its priority services register (if you're in a vulnerable situation). Many companies offer emergency credit and friendly credit for customers with prepayment meters. Find out .