Wrong energy bills for third of UK households

17 April 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
More than a third of UK households have received incorrect energy bills in the last two years, new research from uSwitch.com reveals.

For the third consecutive year, energy companies have been deemed the worst culprits for billing their customers incorrectly, faring worse than banks, councils, water companies, and the taxman.

More than nine million households have had had to deal with at least one inaccurate energy bill, uSwitch discovered, while six million people have received them on more than one occasion.

Furthermore, 42 per cent of households (nearly 11 million) have found themselves unexpectedly owing money to their gas and electricity providers, because of a discrepancy between their estimated bill and their actual meter reading.

Those who have ended up in debt to their energy provider as a result of estimated bills have typically found themselves owing about £142.

With 64 per cent of households providing their energy supplier with a meter reading in the last six months, they are doing their bit to try and prevent incorrect billing, and energy companies have tried to make this easier by allowing customers to email, phone, or text their meter reading.

But those who do receive incorrect bills say it takes about two months to rectify the problem.

"The energy industry's reputation for accuracy is suffering because it is still relying on an estimated billing system," explains Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com. "In the last two years alone 11 million energy customers have fallen foul of a discrepancy between an estimated and actual bill. Not only can this leave people unexpectedly out of pocket but it can also damage their confidence in their supplier.

"Suppliers are starting to get the message across to consumers that it is in their best interests to supply up-to-date meter readings. This will go some way to improving accuracy and changing customer perception. But the biggest improvement will come once smart meters are rolled out across all households so that we can all start to enjoy accurate energy bills based on real time readings."

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