Press release:

11 million homes owed £1.3 billion from energy suppliers

  • Energy suppliers owe 11 million consumers £1.3 billion, despite a bitterly cold winter which should have used surplus credit built up in customers’ accounts[1]
  • Two in five UK homes could reclaim an average of £121 each from energy suppliers[1]
  • Automatic refunds still aren’t the norm, as over half (54%) of bill payers are having to chase their supplier for a refund instead of receiving them automatically[2]
  • Nearly one in 10 (8%) of those in credit could be in for a windfall of over £200[3]
  • But almost 1.4 million households have never provided a meter reading to their supplier, running the risk of inaccurate bills[4]
  • uSwitch.com urges consumers to provide energy suppliers with meter readings at least four times a year to help stay in control of finances and reclaim any credit owed.

Nearly 11 million UK households (40%) could reclaim a staggering £1.3 billion from suppliers for energy they paid for but didn’t use this winter[1], according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

Homes in credit could stand to reclaim an average of £121[1] each and nearly one in 10 (8%) could be owed more than £200[3]. However, the research reveals that suppliers are still failing to automatically refund customers who are in credit, with 54% of bill payers having to chase their energy company to reclaim any money owed[2]. Only three out of the big six suppliers refund balances automatically. The others require customers to call, go online or fill out a form[5].

With the country now emerging from several months of icy weather, finding their account in credit may come as a surprise to many. Customers paying by Direct Debit would normally expect credit to build up in the warmer summer months, and then reduce over the colder, darker winter when they use more gas and electricity.

The high levels of credit could be explained by the fact that over two thirds of homes (69%) took action over the winter to reduce their energy use in a bid to keep bills down[6]. A third (31%) turned down their thermostat, while a quarter (24%) lowered the temperature of individual radiators. Over a fifth (22%) said they only used the heating on certain days when it felt particularly cold[6].

High levels of energy credit could also be due to suppliers estimating their customers’ bills rather than basing them on up to date meter readings. Providing regular readings is essential in order to receive accurate bills and avoid the risk of overpaying, or worse, discovering out of the blue that you owe your energy supplier a large amount of money. The research reveals that one in 10 bill payers (10%) give a meter reading less than twice a year[4], and a further 5% – the equivalent of almost 1.4 million households – have never provided their energy supplier with a meter reading[4].

Most suppliers provide a way to give readings online, while many also have a smartphone app for easy account management. And for those homes with a smart meter, there is no need to provide readings at all, as these are taken automatically. The over 65s are proving themselves to be the most enthusiastic adopters of smart meter technology, with a quarter (24%) stating that they had a smart meter so they didn’t need to supply meter readings[4] – a greater proportion than any other age group surveyed.

As we head into the warmer months, uSwitch is calling on all households to submit a meter reading to find out if they are owed any money. Some suppliers automatically refund credit balances once a year, but this may be subject to a minimum amount and refund policies vary between providers. Under Ofgem rules, customers are entitled to be repaid any credit on request, as long as up-to-date meter readings have been provided[7].

Shona Eyre, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “Reclaiming over £100 from your energy supplier is a big win at the end of a long, cold winter. With around 11 million energy customers likely to be in credit, households should check their account right now. If you’re one of those owed money, then you can choose to leave it where it is as a buffer for next winter or claim it back and spend it on something you really want.

“Before reclaiming any credit, make sure you provide a meter reading. As a bare minimum, households should do this four times a year. Once at the start of each season is a good way to remember.

With price rises coming into force over the next few months that will affect over six million customers on rip-off standard variable tariffs, consumers have even more to gain by shopping around and changing supplier. And with nearly four million people having complained about their energy company in 2017[10], switching to a fixed deal now could save you almost £500, protect you against further price rises, and give you the option to select a supplier with better customer service.”

Table 1: How to reclaim credit from energy suppliers

Supplier Average credit amount[8] Percentage of customers in credit[8] How to reclaim credit
British Gas £111 35% Credit will be automatically refunded if over £75 after one year, as long as a meter reading has been provided. If your account is less than £75 in credit, you can still request a refund.
E.ON £136 23% A meter reading will need to be provided and future Direct Debit payments may need to change.
EDF £107 43% A meter reading will need to be provided.
npower £136 70% At a customer’s annual review, credit of £5 or more on either gas or electricity accounts will be automatically refunded as long as a meter reading has been provided.
ScottishPower £102 20% If a customer’s annual review is based on actual meter readings and the balance is greater than one month’s payment or over £75, the balance will be automatically refunded.
SSE £132 50% A meter reading will need to be provided and a customer will need to fill out a refund form.
First Utility £246 55% Credit over £10 will be automatically refunded after one year, customers can request credit back at other times through their online account.
OVO £88 88% Account balances in credit receive 3-5% OVO Interest Reward. Accounts must be more than 90 days old and have an active Direct Debit to be eligible for a refund. The minimum refund amount is £25, and the account must have enough credit to cover one Direct Debit payment, plus an extra £25 to request a refund. A recent meter reading will need to be provided.

Source: uSwitch.com correct as of 27 April, 2018

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was conducted online by Opinium between 6th April and 10th April 2018, among 2002 UK bill payers.

  1. When asked ‘Thinking about your most recent energy bill from your supplier, which of the following best applies to you?’, 40% were in credit to their supplier. 27.2 million households in the UK (source: ONS). 40% of 27.2 million = 10.8 million. The mean amount of those in credit was £121. £121 x 10.8 million = £1.3 billion.
  2. When asked ‘Has your energy supplier ever automatically refunded credit back into your account?’, 54% said ‘No’
  3. When asked ‘Thinking about your most recent energy bill from your supplier, which of the following best applies to you?’, 4% said ‘In credit between £201 and £300’, 2% said ‘In credit between £301 and £500’, 2% said ‘In credit more than £500’. These percentages added together = 8%
  4. When asked ‘How often do you tend to provide a meter reading to your energy supplier? Pick which closest matches your frequency’, 7% said once every six months and 3% said once a year. 5% said ‘I have never provided my energy supplier with a meter reading’. 5% of 27.2 million households = 1,360,000 households who have never provided their supplier with a meter reading. 24% of over 65s said ‘n/a I have a smart meter so don’t need to supply meter readings’.
  5. See Table 1 in release. Information on supplier’s refund policies taken from their websites on 27 April, 2018
  6. When asked ‘During the winter that has just passed, did you attempt to reduce your household energy usage in any of the following ways?’ 31% said they did nothing at all, therefore 69% took some sort of action. 31% said they turned down the thermostat, 24% turned down individual radiators and 22% said they only used heating on certain days when it felt particularly cold.
  7. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/household-gas-and-electricity-guide/understand-your-gas-and-electricity-bills/energy-bill-credit-explained
  8. Respondents were asked ‘Which energy supplier are you with? If you are with a different supplier for gas and electricity please think about the one you spend the most with.’ and the answers were cross referenced with their credit amount and the number of people in credit with each supplier.
  9. Between 1 April 2017 and 30 September 2017, at least 10% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with uSwitch saved £491 or more
  10. Ofgem: Energy company performance 2017

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

Customers can sign up to an account that automatically monitors the energy market and notifies them when they can move to a cheaper tariff, while broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and identify the best deal for their postcode.

The multi award-winning 'Switching Made Simple' app allows customers to compare energy, broadband, credit card, mobile and SIM-only deals – and uSwitch also has a UK contact centre manned by energy and broadband experts. Customers can post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH to receive a free call back and be guided through the comparison process, or they can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details.

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