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Energy firms biggest culprits for bill errors

More than nine million households (35%) have had to deal with at least one inaccurate energy bill in the last two years, while nearly six million (22%) have had to contend with inaccuracies on more than one occasion. The latest figures also show a slight increase in "bad billing" from energy suppliers compared to a year ago.

However, there is some good news for consumers. More than one in ten billing issues (11%) are resolved within a day while almost two in ten (19%) are sorted out within a week. But on average it takes suppliers two months to sort out billing concerns.

Households are also taking greater steps to help with the accuracy of their energy bills – 64% have provided their energy supplier with a meter reading in the last six months.

Suppliers have been making this easier, with consumers now allowed to email, phone or even text their latest readings.

Making sure bills are based on up-to-date readings, rather than estimates, is in the best interests of both consumers and suppliers.

Almost 11 million energy customers (42%) have unexpectedly owed money to their energy supplier following a discrepancy between an estimated bill and an actual meter reading[3]. On average customers ended up owing £142, with a fifth (20%) owing between £101-200.

The widespread adoption of smart meters will resolve discrepancies between actual and estimated bills as all bills will be based on real time readings.

However, as yet, there is no confirmation of when consumers can expect to see their old meters replaced with the new technology, and no agreement yet on who will be meeting the cost. In the meantime, Ofgem’s proposal to simplify billing so that consumers can understand what they are paying should help people manage their bills.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: "The energy industry’s reputation for accuracy is suffering because it is still relying on an estimated billing system.

"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. They are also making it easier than ever, with customers able to phone, email or even text their readings through. Consumers are responding well with 64% supplying a reading within the last six months. Ofgem’s proposals to simplify bills should also help.

"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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