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13 million homes owed £1.7 billion by energy suppliers

  • Energy suppliers owe 13 million households a total of £1.7 billion — a 13.5% (£230 million) increase on 2019

  • Almost half (46%) of UK homes could reclaim an average of £136 each in outstanding credit – but one in ten (10%) could be due a rebate of over £200

  • But half (46%) don’t know how to claim a refund and six in ten (57%) say their supplier has never automatically given them a refund

  • Nearly four million households (14%) are in debt to their supplier after the winter, by an average of £142 each

  • Uswitch.com advises consumers to think about reclaiming their credit, or use it as a buffer to help pay for the 17% extra gas and 25% extra electricity they will use at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Almost 13 million households in the UK are owed a total of £1.7 billion by their energy suppliers — up 13.5% (£230 million) compared to last year, according to new research from Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service.

Consumers who pay for their energy by direct debit can often find themselves in credit with their supplier as their monthly payments don’t exactly match their gas and electricity usage.

Their direct debit amounts stay the same every month, but their energy usage changes depending on the time of year. This means that consumers should be in credit with their supplier following the summer months, and in debt to their provider in the depths of winter.

But coming out of winter this year, almost half of all UK households (46%) are due a refund from the energy provider, with the average amount worth £136 — up £10 on last year. In addition, one in ten energy bill-payers (10%) are owed a rebate of more than £200. One in five consumers (19%) say the amount they are in credit with their energy supplier has grown since last year.

Some energy providers do not automatically issue refunds to customers whose accounts are in credit, meaning any money owed to consumers can go unclaimed for months. Almost six in ten (57%) report that their energy supplier has never automatically credited their account.

Many consumers need more information about how to reclaim their money, as almost half of people (46%) are not aware how to. One in ten households (10%) didn’t know whether they were in credit or debt.

At the other end of the scale, 3.9 million households (14%) are in debt to their provider at the end of winter, a total of £548 million for the UK — and an average of £142 each — up £20 (16%) on last year. More than a quarter (27%) say that their debt is higher than it was last year, and nearly one in ten (9%) have moved from being in credit last year to owing their supplier this year.

Concerns over growing debt led some households to take measures to reduce their energy use over the winter period. Steps taken by people include turning down the thermostat (30%), only using the heating on certain days (24%) and turning down each radiator individually (23%).

During the coronavirus lockdown, Uswitch.com is advising consumers to think about whether they want to reclaim their credit, or use it as a buffer to help pay for the extra gas and electricity they will use while spending so much extra time at home. In addition, vulnerable customers can get support from their energy provider.

The vast majority of suppliers either refund automatically or allow you to fill in a form online. If consumers want to reclaim credit, it’s recommended that they do this via suppliers’ websites rather than calling wherever possible, as suppliers’ contact centres are extremely busy supporting more vulnerable customers.

People can also reduce their energy consumption just by following some simple tips around the home, and could save over £400 by switching to a cheaper energy deal.

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com comments:

“Energy firms owe £1.7 billion to families across the UK. At a time when many people are finding their finances squeezed as well as using extra gas and electricity because they have to stay at home, this will be welcome news for anyone sitting on unclaimed credit from their energy supplier.

“More than a fifth of households say that the amount of credit or debt they’re in has increased in the last year, and we hope that providers will act quickly to make sure that direct debit payments accurately reflect energy use.”

If you’re wondering whether you could be owed money, see our useful guide here for more information.

Table 1: How to reclaim credit from energy suppliers

| Supplier | Average amount customers say they are in credit | Percentage of customers who say they are in credit | How to reclaim credit | | EDF Energy | £181.33 | 45% | Current customers can provide meter readings which can be supplied to EDF, either online, through the app or over the phone, in order to access a refund. If you have already left EDF, you can request a refund via the help and support  section of the EDF website. | | Scottish Power | £150.00 | 42% |  

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. If customers wish to request a refund outside of their annual review, they will need to provide a meter reading.

| | Ovo Energy | £143.94 | 53% |  

You can ask for a refund if your balance is at least £25 more than one month’s Direct Debit payment. A recent meter reading will need to be provided.

| | Shell Energy (formerly First Utility) | £141.96 | 39% |  

Customers in credit can request a refund, although Shell Energy highlights that credit levels may vary throughout the year. If monthly payment amounts are too high, Shell will recommend reducing the regular payment.

| | SSE | £139.08 | 38% |  

Every six months, SSE reviews customer usage against what they are paying, with a Direct Debit review taking place annually. If the review finds that you are paying too much and are in credit, they will automatically refund you. Outside of this review period, a meter reading will need to be provided and a customer will need to fill out a refund form.

| | British Gas | £134.60 | 46% |  

British Gas will put up to £75 of your credit towards your future bills but you can request a refund online, through their live chat or your account.

| | Octopus Energy | £134.13 | 51% |  

Any customer with more credit on their account than they need can request a refund as long as they’ve had an energy bill based on their real meter readings in the last 14 days. Those customers can request their refund via their online account.Customers in other circumstances who think they’re due a refund but don’t quite meet this criteria should email hello@octopus.energy

| | NPower | £130.60 | 52% |  

Annual reviews take place for NPower customers. If you’ve built up a credit of £25 or more on either your gas or electricity, they will refund it automatically – as long as the statement was based on an actual meter reading. Customers can call at any time to discuss a credit refund but a meter reading will need to be provided.

| | E.ON | £129.55 | 48% |  

Customers can request a refund but a meter reading will need to be provided and future Direct Debit payments may need to change.

| | Bulb Energy | £112.86 | 51% |  

If a customer’s account is in credit by more than their monthly payment amount, they can email help@bulb.co.uk to ask for a refund. A meter reading will need to be provided and these can be submitted before you get in touch.

|

Source: Uswitch.com. Opinium surveyed a sample of 2,008 UK energy bill-payers from the 20th to 24th March 2020. Results have been weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tim Dunford

Phone: 020 3872 5612

Mobile: 07785 552666

Email: tim.dunford@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uswitchPR

Notes to editors

Opinium surveyed a sample of 2,008 UK energy bill-payers from the 20th to 24th March 2020. Results have been weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria.

  1. Respondents were asked ‘Thinking about your most recent energy bill from your supplier, which of the following best applies to you?’ 46% said they were in credit with their supplier. 46% of 27.6 million UK households = 12.7 million households in energy credit. The average amount households were in credit was £136.29. 14% said they were in debt with their supplier. 14% of 27.6 million UK households = 3.86 million households in energy debt. The average amount households were in debt was £142.02. 12.7 million households in credit x £136.29 = £1.73 billion. 3.86 million households x £142.02 debt = £548 million in debt. 10% of respondents said that they were over £200 in credit. 10% said that they did not know if they were in credit or debt.

  2. Uswitch.com energy credit research 2019 (£1.5bn), Uswitch.com energy credit research 2018 (£1.3bn), Uswitch.com energy credit research 2017 (£1.3bn), Uswitch.com energy credit research 2016 (£1.5bn). £1.73bn – £1.5bn = £230m. £230m is 13.5% of 1.7bn.

  3. Respondents were asked ‘Are you aware of the method to claim back a refund?’ 46% said that they did not know how to claim back credit from my energy provider.

  4. Respondents were asked ‘Has your energy supplier ever automatically refunded credit back into your account?’ 57% said ‘No’.

  5. Stay-at-home Britons could spend an extra £52 million a week on energy bills

  6. Respondents were asked ‘Thinking about the amount you are in credit with your energy supplier, how does this compare with a year ago?’ 19% said ‘My credit is higher’.

  7. Respondents were asked ‘Thinking about the amount you are in debt/arrears with your energy supplier, how does this compare with a year ago?’, 27% said ‘My debt/arrears is higher’, 9% said that ‘I have moved from credit into debt’.

  8. Source: Uswitch.com correct as at 1/4/2020. Assumes household with medium annual consumption on a dual-fuel tariff, paying by monthly direct debit. Price cap on Standard Variable Tariffs: £1,162. Cheapest tariff: £750 (Outfox the Market, Fix’D 20 9.0). £1,162-£750 = £412.

  9. Respondents were asked ‘During the winter that has just passed, did you attempt to reduce your household energy usage in any of the following ways?’ 30% said that they ‘Turned down the thermostat’, 24% said that they ‘Only used the heating on certain days when it felt particularly cold’ and 23% said that they ‘Turned down individual radiators in your home’.

  10. See Table 1 in the release. 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’. Answers were then cross-referenced with their credit amount and the percentage of people in credit with each supplier.

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