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Energy supplier Q&A: Gas and electricity bills and prepayment meters

Why are bills so complicated? Suppliers answer!

In today’s blog:

Why are bills so complicated? What are the Big 6 energy suppliers going to do about it? British Gas, EDF and ScottishPower answer your questions.

Next Week:

Transparency: Where is it and what are the energy suppliers doing to improve it?



Why are bill formats not standardised and simplified for easier understanding and true comparison?

EDF: We are constantly looking at innovative and informative ways of improving the presentation of our bills.

Our bills already have a simple summary page to help ease of understanding and we provide a consumption graph on bills – then the first of its kind in the industry – to help consumers track their energy usage and compare it to previous quarters. There is also a detailed breakdown, so that customers can obtain as much information as they require, helping to make consumers more aware of their energy usage. In addition, we clearly mark our bills as ‘estimated’when estimated readings have been used to calculate accounts.

I want to know when customers will be able to have easy to understand break-down of their bills, standardised across the industry?

British Gas  British Gas is improving bills and is committed to providing a full breakdown of all costs and charges associated with providing energy to customer’s homes. This will be delivered in three stages:

1. From this month, the energy provider will include a complete breakdown of all the costs that make up a customer’s bill.

2. British Gas is working with customers and consumer groups to redesign energy bills and remove the existing two-tier structure.

3. British Gas is leading the roll out of smart meters, with more than 400,000 already installed in its customers’ homes and businesses; in the future all domestic energy customers will benefit from smart meters, which provide accurate bills and real-time information for customers, helping them keep control of their energy usage.

Pre-payment Meters

Can you explain why people on token meters are charged a higher rate that those who are billed and why when they have to make use of the emergency supply they are charged at rates that appear to charge much more?

British Gas: British Gas charges the same price for paying by Prepayment as we do for paying by Quarterly Bill. There used to be a difference in prices, but we removed those costs back in  a couple of years ago. There also isn’t any price increase for going into Emergency Credit. British Gas customers still pay the same price as normal.

Why does it cost more for pre-pay energy when we pay up front? It should be cheaper as we are paying before we use it.

EDF: We charge the same unit rates and standing charge whether you are on a credit meter or a prepayment meter, and we were the first company to so align our prices.

British Gas: British Gas removed the costs for electricity pre-pay meter customers in December 2008, and on 4 February 2010 removed the price differential for gas pre-pay meter customers, having previously reduced the differential to around 50p per week, per customer. British Gas permanently equalised the tariffs it charges to pre-pay meter users with those charged to customers on quarterly bills.

[For more information on prepayment meters, the uSwitch prepayment meter guide might be able to help – ED]

Why do energy companies so often exclude existing customers from the least expensive tariffs?

British Gas: Not all customers want the same things.  For example, our cheapest online ‘no frills’ tariff doesn’t offer paper energy bills.  We want to make sure our customers are getting the best deal they can from us.  By changing tariff or the way they pay they could start saving on their energy bills straight away.

EDF: All our residential tariffs are made available to both our existing customers and any new customers wishing to come to EDF Energy. Existing customers get exactly the same benefits as new customers, an example of which being our two Price Protection tariffs which include an automatic welcome bonus for every customer that signs up to them, whether new or existing.