Wrong energy bills push 71% to take meters into their own hands

Wrong energy bills push 71% to take meters into their own hands

16 April 2010 / by Rachael Stiles

Thirty per cent of British bill payers have been billed incorrectly by their energy provider in the last two years, according to uSwitch.com.

Research from the comparison website has found that energy suppliers have come out as the worst for getting bills wrong, for the fourth year in a row, ahead of banks, council tax departments, and other utility providers, and the Inland Revenue.

Almost half of UK households (11 million) have found themselves owing money to their energy supplier as a result of a discrepancy between estimated energy bills and the real bill. 

The average amount that households owe their gas and electricity supplier following an incorrect bill is £153, a rise of £11 compared to 2009, and it takes an average two months to correct it.

To avoid being inaccurately billed, finding themselves in debt, and the hassle of trying to correct it, 71 per cent of households have taken their own meter reading in the last six months – seven per cent more than in 2009.

uSwitch.com says that the rise in consumers who take their own meter reading is "welcome news", because it means that they are no longer reliant on their gas and electricity providers taking estimated readings.

While energy companies remain consumers' worst culprit for inaccurate billing, the study did reveal a year-on-year decline, from 35 per cent to 30 per cent, in the number of households who have been billed inaccurately, and the speed with which problems are resolved has been increased.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: "Clearly there's a long way to go before the energy industry lays the ghost of bad billing to rest, but there is some hope here. The fact that more households are providing suppliers with meter readings will play no small part in improving the accuracy of our energy bills."

Ms Robinson deemed the rising number of meter-reading billpayers "consumer power at its best" and hopes that this will lead to an improvement in the quality of bills and the energy providers' reputations.

"The energy industry still falls far short of its peers, but suppliers have been working hard to make it easier than ever for consumers to provide their own readings. This can be done online, over the phone, by post or even text," she explained.

"Consumers should aim to provide a reading once a quarter – failure to do so can result in receiving an estimated bill, which is where many of the issues relating to accuracy lie. It may seem like a pain, but it really is in all our interests to make sure that suppliers are using up-to-date information on our bills."

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