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Energy FAQs: gas and electricity bills and more

Do you have to pay the duplicate energy bill? How does paperless billing work? How can you use your bill's QR code to save hundreds? Find out in this guide.

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Why do I have an electricity duplicate bill?

The two most likely reasons you have received a duplicate electricity bill (or back bill) are:

  • Internal error from your supplier
  • You've underpaid due to estimated billing

Errors from your supplier

It is not uncommon for energy suppliers to send additional bills to households in an effort to recoup money lost due to their own internal system errors. In 2017 alone, uSwitch found that 1.3 million customers have been overcharged due their supplier's mistakes.

These mistakes include tariff details being wrong, incorrect fees being applied, submitted meter readings provided not being applied and incorrect direct debit taken, to name a few.

The worst part? These mistakes go unnoticed as customers rarely read their electricity bills — mistakes that cost an average of £79 per household in 2017. For more help, read our guide to energy back billing.

Estimated billing errors

Estimated billing is when your supplier has to estimate your energy usage because you haven't supplied them with regular meter readings. And when a meter reading is eventually collected (usually annually), the supplier may find you've not been paying enough to cover your actual usage.

In this case, you do in fact owe your supplier. So to avoid shock bills such as this, be sure to submit regular meter readings. Watch our how-to read your meter video below:

  • Read the Transcript

    Taking energy meter readings sounds needless and complicated. But in fact, it’s an important and simple way to understand your energy usage and get accurate bills.

    If you don’t take meter readings, you’ll get an estimated bill. This can lead to overpaying or underpaying. No-one likes to overpay but underpaying sounds nice, right? Don’t be fooled. Your supplier will want their money, leaving you with a surprise bill down the line.

    There are four main types of gas and electricity meters: single rate, dual rate, dial meters and smart meters.

    Gas is measured in cubic meters or cubic feet, and electricity is measured in kilowatt hours.

    Your meters may look a little confusing now, but we’ll help you make sense of them.

    For single rate meters, write down the numbers from left to right. Ignore any red numbers, or numbers after the decimal point.

    Dual rate meters are for those of you on two energy rates, for different times of the day. Write down the numbers from left to right. Ignore any red numbers, or numbers after the decimal point. Some dual meters have a single display where you might have to press a button to view each rate. Write down the numbers from left to right. Press the button to see the next reading and then write that down too.

    Dial meters have up to 5 dials, each with numbers 0-9. There may be a sixth dial on the right, sometimes in red, or with one tenth next to it. Ignore this. Write down the numbers the pointer has just passed from left to right. If the pointer lies exactly on any number, underline it. Now look at your five numbers. For any that are underlined, look at the number following it. If it’s between 9 and 0, reduce your underlined number by 1.

    That’s all there is to it. Send your readings to your energy supplier at least once every four months and your bills will be spot on.

    Energy suppliers are now offering smart meters for homes in England, Scotland and Wales. These meters use in-home displays and send digital readings to your supplier. They give you more accurate bills and a better understanding of your energy usage, all without taking your own readings.

    Whether you continue reading your old meters, or choose a smart meter, you’ve taken the first step towards accurate bills and understanding your energy usage. Aren’t you clever?

What is paperless energy billing?

Paperless billing is just as it sounds — you receive your monthly or quarterly bills through an online account you must set up with your supplier. Opting for paperless billing almost always comes with a discount (e.g. the same tariff can otherwise cost £30 more per year if you don't opt for paperless billing).

You may be less likely to check your energy bills if they're not coming through your letterbox, but don't be tempted to skip reviewing your costs. As outlined above, there are often mistakes that could cost you hundreds if left unnoticed!

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Why do energy bills have QR codes on them?

Suppliers are required to put a scannable code on every bill. This code contains all the relevant info you would need to compare and switch energy tariffs, including supplier name, tariff name and your annual usage.

That means you can use faster switching tools like the uSwitch mobile app to "scan your way to savings". This little code takes the pain of hunting info out of your bill and makes it as easy as taking a snapshot for an instant energy comparison.

App qr code scan

How can I get electricity without a deposit?

If you want to switch your electricity prepayment meter to a standard credit meter you will need to contact your energy provider.

Your energy provider might charge you for the installation, but you will also need to have cleared your account so that there is no debt to be paid.

Your energy provider might also run a credit check to make sure you will be likely to keep up with the bill payments on a standard credit meter.

Find out how to change your meter over. And, if your supplier makes it difficult to switch to a standard meter, then consider switching to another supplier who will do it for you at no cost.

Is electricity considered a utility?

Yes, electricity is a utility. Electricity, gas and water are all considered a utility. Utilities can also refer to any other essential bills you pay for, including broadband, your Council Tax and TV licence.

uSwitch helps you compare and save on utilities such as gas and electricity and on your broadband.

How do I find the latest electricity news?

uSwitch's Energy News covers the latest issues in the gas and electricity industry that could impact Britain's household bills, including price rise announcements, consumer tips and more.

You can also filter the uSwitch Energy News section to read up on matters relating to electricity, price rises, and by supplier, if you wanted to see what your provider was up to. It's a good idea to be informed so you're ready to make the switch in the event that electricity prices start to rise.

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Who is the electricity regulatory authority?

Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) is the electricity regulatory authority in the UK. Ofgem aims to regulate the market for the electricity and gas markets in a way that increases competition among suppliers and offers cheaper energy to consumers.

Read more about Ofgem.

Ofgem also manage the Confidence Code, which is a voluntary set of guidelines for energy price comparison sites such as uSwitch. The code requires comparison sites provide comprehensive and accurate information to consumers about energy suppliers and deals.

Bear in mind that not all price comparison sites adhere to the code, so it's well worth checking before you compare!

What are electricity safety tips that you recommend?

Electrical safety in the home is important, yet often overlooked. Here are a few tips to keep you and your home safe:

  1. Avoid overloading electrical sockets
  2. Keep flammable items away from electric heaters
  3. Regularly check for worn cables and wires
  4. Take care when using electric blankets and portable heaters
  5. Always use a converter with foreign appliances

Get eight more electricity safety tips to follow in our guide to electrical safety.

Read more…

Why pay more for the same energy?

Find and switch to a better energy deal in minutes