'Inaccurate bills' could mean customers are paying too much for gas and electricity

21 October 2008 / by Rachel Mason
Gas and electricity customers could be paying too much for their energy due to inaccurate billing, according to watchdog Consumer Focus.

Since the summer, the six largest energy companies – EDF, British Gas, Eon, Scottish and Southern, Scottish Power and N Power – have raised prices by as much as 34 per cent.

And according to Consumer Focus, as many as 16 million people could find they are charged a higher rate for gas and electricity used before the price hike because providers estimate bills.

Consumer Focus says about a third of UK energy customers will get estimated bills this quarter which will take into account energy used before and after the summer price hikes but may not take into account the rises themselves, and base the entire bill on the new prices.

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The watchdog claims that this could result in confusion down the line, because once the meter is actually read, it will not be clear which units of energy were used before the price rise and which were used afterwards.

"Consumers could be paying higher prices for gas or electricity used in the past, while for companies it results in a very nice windfall," Robert Hammond, of Consumer Focus told the BBC.

Consumer Focus says that until "smart" meters - which offer real time information on unit usage - are installed in all households, the situation cannot really change.

The group says that the best way to avoid the situation is to take a meter reading on the first say of a price rise, failing that, it is urging consumers to check their bills for an 'E' which means the charge is estimated and to then take a reading of their meter straight away and contact their energy supplier.

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