Skip to main content

70% of consumers overcharged on household bills

In the past year, 7 in 10 were charged more they should have been on at least one bill

man shocked worried at energy billNew research from uSwitch reveals that seven in 10 consumers (70%) have been overcharged on a household bill in the past year. More than a third (33%) have been overcharged more than once.

The average amount people are being overcharged is a shocking £196; some unlucky consumers (11%) have been overcharged £400 or more.

Companies that send through household bills every month, including utilities, telecoms and mortgages, may have overcharged their customers to the tune of £6.7 billion just in the past year, says uSwitch.

Earlier this year, uSwitch discovered that 25% of households are wrongly billed by their energy supplier.

Paying for the mistakes

uSwitch also identified the most common reasons consumers were overcharged. The biggest culprits were additional charges that should not have been applied (42%).

32% stated that they were overcharged with an incorrect tariff, while 25% did not receive a special offer or discount as promised. A quarter of consumers report that their bill simply did not add up correctly.

To make matters worse, consumers have to spend both time and money making it right. An estimated 8 hours and £23 on calls is spent by consumers trying to sort out the overcharging mistakes. On top of these costs, they had to wait nearly two months on average to have their money returned to them.

Diligence pays off

Of those overcharged, nearly all of them (95%) uncovered the mistake on their own, not by the bill provider.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch says of the findings:

“Overcharging on household bills is rife and yet it still seems to be down to the customer to spot it. Consumers have to keep their wits about them and ensure that they check all their household bills carefully – if you are not checking then the chances are that a mistake will have slipped through and this could be costing you dear.

“At the same time I would urge companies to do as much as possible to help their customers by making household bills simpler, clearer and easier to understand. This is a foundation stone in building trust and confidence, and a vital step towards putting consumers in control. With 95% of overcharging spotted by customers rather than the bill provider, it’s imperative that people are able to spot and resolve any mistakes quickly – nobody can afford to be left out of pocket because a company didn’t quite get its sums right.”

Learn more

25% of households wrongly billed by their energy supplier

Only 25% of Brits complain when subjected to poor customer service


  • Name

    i am a pensioner i dont understand the reading of the bills so i just put them on one side and save ,how would i know if i was been charged wrong with out help

    • lee

      Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help explain your bills to you so that you can understand them better and then you will be able to keep a better check on them.

      • Terry

        The trouble is though, these companies keep changing their tariffs every few months then increase their prices. The bills are extremely complicated to work out, there are still far too many different tariffs from each supplier, you keep getting pestered to change company before they too put up their prices making you no better off for changing, worse off in some cases. A complete waste of time.
        The whole system of paying for your fuel is too complicated and unnecessary. These are deliberate tactics by those companies to stop you checking and understanding your bills.
        It’s not easy to get an appointment with the Citizen Advice Bureau in our area as they are always too busy and under staffed. I just stick with the same supplier now for less hassle.
        The Conservative Government said they were going to make each company have no more than two tariffs but nothing has changed there either.

  • Chris

    Over the top statement, trying to scare monger the public into changing supplier, so USWITCH make money on the switch. All those percentages are taken out of context to mislead the average person into doing this!.

    • lee

      Even if you get the advice from uswitch you don’t have to agree to them doing the switch for you – that is totally your choice. Instead, you can just get uswitch to give you all the information, you write it all down and then you contact the new supplier you want to switch to with that information. You can do it all yourself and then uswitch don’t make a penny. Sometimes if you switch through one of the cashback websites you can even make money by switching, e.g. £50, by switching it yourself. I have saved a fortune by using the uswitch service, so I don’t begrudge uswitch the very small amount that they have made on each switch that they have arranged for me. It’s not as if I pay them direct for providing me with all the information – that is totally free. They only charge the energy companies a very small amount when you ask uswitch to arrange the switch for you. Yes, I know that the cost eventually gets passed onto the consumer, I.e. me, but it really only makes a miniscule amount of difference to the amount you pay for your energy. It is the energy companies that are the crooks, not uswitch. Switching is not hard and it is everyone’s right to pay as little or as much as they want to for their energy, but shopping around without the help of a company like uswitch is extremely difficult and very time consuming. All uswitch is offering you is information and a way of making it very easy to switch suppliers. What do you expect them to run their business on – fresh air?

  • Chris

    Also, If you are overcharged with an estimated reading, with the recent trend of price rises over and over again, you’re better off staying with your supplier. At least you’re being overcharged at the older cheaper prices. When an actual reading is taken to catch up with this over estimate. You’ll be paying for less units at the newer more expensive price!

  • diane1606

    it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference…after 3 years of making phone calls, even having to endure being put on hold at my own expense (0845) for up to half an hour at a time, DOZENS of times, trying to sort THEIR errors out, being threatened with bailiffs, etc, and that is after the company admitted to having read someone else’s meter by mistake, and adding that reading to My account, I am STILL being threatened with court action if I don’t pay an entirely incorrect bill which was over £800 for gas/electricity july 22nd to sept 4th for a 3 bed semi where me and my daughter were the only people living there, but then only overnight, as we both worked full time+, and we had only just moved in, so hadn’t even worked out how to put the heating on….as it was the height of summer! I don’t know what YOU think, but >£800 is a bit steep for 5-ish weeks in summer, no heating, not much in the way of lighting, 3 bed semi?? Bizarre! I’m still refusing to pay…have worked out I owe them about £124 only…’s a long story..maybe I should just go to court, it would probably be a lot simpler?

    • Peter

      By sending a written notice that you intend to sue them at a rate of £350 a day you then invite them to take you to court with your counter claim and by not taking court action they agree that your claim to compensation is valid this should get them responding

      • diane1606

        Thank you Peter…£350 a day for 4 might be worth the hassle!

    • Lee

      contact dominic littlewood off the tv from “Don’t get done, get Dom” and see if he can help you. it’s totally worth a shot and you have nothing to lose.

      • diane1606

        Lee…I had a rare “day off” recently, spotted that programme in the morning, wondered if it might be worth a try! Thanks!

    • Terry

      As long as you have all the proof then let them take you to Court. They will lose and have to pay for it.
      You could take it to the ombudsman instead though at let them sort it out. You have a right after not getting it sorted after all this time.

      • diane1606

        Thank you Terry. To be honest it is still ongoing…their last communication was that I owed them, I think, about £260…a completely random amount, no meter readings involved, I dare say to placate me and lure me into paying..rather less than the original £800+, but still more than I actually owe…I’ve not heard from their “debt collectors” for a while, but I guess they’ll try again soon…!

  • Lorna

    I live in a four bedroom detached farmhouse with my husband and kids. We only have electric storage heating. Two years ago when we moved in our supplier said £200 per month would cover the electricity useage. When I got the first bill after being there six months I was well in credit, fantastic as it was approaching winter and I knew we would be using more electric. Six months later my next bill arrived, I was over £1000 (yes one thousand pounds, not a typo) in debt! Panic hit so I called my energy supplier, my advice was that it would all even out over summer. Six months later my new bill arrives and despite NEVER missing a Direct Debit my bill shows I’m £2700 (two thousand, seven hundred) in debt!!! My Direct Debit has now been increased to £400 per month and it’s just about financially crippling us. I’ve contacted the Energy Savings Trust, the Government have no grants available to update electric heating, only gas or oil! Energy prices are still rising, I cannot change supplier beacause of the debt and the duel meter that is installed. I’m at my wits end! It’s not just energy prices that are going up, everything is apart from our income. I fear that soon it will be a choice between food or warmth, although we are lucky, I know there are people out there in a far worse position than us. NOTE; None of the bills were estimates.

    • john

      Take them to court with a counterclaim to include compensation

      • lee

        Are you sure the meter is working properly. You can ask the energy company to get an independent person to check it is working properly and get them to prove to you that I has been working properly the entire time.

  • djstephen

    I am with Scottish Power, Since the 1st June 2013, I elected to pay my bills, not by direct debit. The problems I have encountered with them is unbelievable.Several e mails and two phone calls and the problem has not been sorted to my satisfaction.

  • lee

    All I can say is always check your BT bills, because practically everyone that works at BT lies, especially the sales team and the overseas call centres, and because of the way their entire system is set up when you phone back again to find out what is happening with your complaint they deny all knowledge. Put every complaint to them in writing and do it through the official complaints channel detailed on their website, even if they tell you it is okay to complain in a phone call (don’t believe them, they lie.) I am also going to write to the CEO because he has to be told what is happening within the company and I am certain he has no flippin’ idea or he would be ashamed to show his face. I’ve even had BT staff phone my house and provide me with fake contact names, fake job titles and even fake departments in response to my complaints.

  • Paul Hinkley

    if the energy company has overcharged that to me is organised theft do I get my money back and get them charged and have compensation paid to me I do not think so if I did this to a customer and deliberately did this I would be locked up different rules for the rich and those who are entrusted with our powers they manipulate the system for themselves

  • swardy

    HI,I am currently paying £10 a day gas on a meter and i am only in at night. Am i paying to much? and what do i do if so.

    • Michele Martinelli

      Hi swardy,
      The easiest way to find out if you are being overcharged is to run a comparison. Just make sure you select the ‘gas only’ option

  • JamesWH

    I have only just discovered I am wrongly being charged for using my emergency credit on prepayment, that is to say I am being charged at an unkown rate for using the emergency which isn`t taken from the emergency credit but added to debt owed screen on the meter which means each top up I make to get myself out of emergency is not far from double the amount of the emergency credit I have used. It has been like this for a year, as a result I have been opting to live without heating and just use my gas for heated water only as I am on benefits – does anybody know if I can claim compensation for the hardship I have faced because of this? After all this has had a snowball effect since day one ie I can only afford a small amount of credit while on benefits and therefore regardless of the fact I have been in credit each payday(fortnightly) I am always forced to enter into emergency credit on a regular basis and as I get charged more than I can afford to pay out of my budget every couple months I have to cut back on electric use so as to recover the difference so that I can keep clean and wash my dishes. On many occasions I have had to go without baths(I have been getting just 1 a week otherwise) and also had to take risks with my health by washing dishes in cold water. I haven`t even checked if this is case with my electric yet but its in hand.

  • Angela Greenfield

    I have just found out that Scottish Power reckon I owe them £1,400. As my energy usage has not increased and the cost of my usage for the last 3 months (the time when I have my heating on the most) is only around £200, I know this is wrong. They are claiming they have not had a reading for two years, yet I have sent readings online and in the post. They now want to increase my monthly payment to £150 until the balance is cleared and are completely refusing to admit that there is a mistake. According to them I have used over £2,000 worth of gas in the last year. Can anyone advise on if there is anything I can do about this please.

  • linda

    I have just received an electric bill for £1000 from British Gas for a 1 bed flat, my last quarter was for 154kw this quarter is over 7000kw.
    can this be right, I spoke to someone in India who told me to turn off the power for a couple of hours then to read the metre to see if it had moved.
    she was no help at all.

  • Gary Martin

    My electric meter was changed in September to a Smart meter. It wasn’t something I asked for but the utility company wanted it installed. Fair enough. They obviously don’t communicate with the company that installs them and so I have received a ridiculously high increase of £1300 to my bill where the reading of the old meter and the new one don’t match up. Eon are requesting I go from paying £81 a month to £450 a month to remedy the situation. It’s a bloody good job I’m not a vulnerable adult otherwise I would be off my head worrying about this. It happened before at a property I rent out and so a common theme is emerging…do they deliberately bungle bills to try and take advantage of customers ?

  • jacquie

    I was with Scottish Power until recently…I was paying £106 per month for electric only! I switched to EDF and have paid one payment of £81 since switching. I have just given them a reading and my monthly DD has been reduced to £54!!!! How do I go about claiming any overcharge from being on a wrong tariff from Scottish Power?