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Cash-strapped households overcharged £6bn in the last year

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10/07/2012
Consumers should not rely on their service providers to get final bills right as households are hit with an ‘epidemic' of overcharging, warns uSwitch.com.

Cash-strapped households may have been overcharged by more than £6bn in the last year on essential bills such as utilities, telecoms and mortgages, with 95% of cases being pointed out by the customer rather than the bill provider in the past year.

Potentially 6 in 10 people have been overcharged on at least one household bill, with over a quarter falling victim to this more than once. The average amount that consumers have been hit with is around £229, however one in ten people could have been overcharged by £500 or more.

Ann Robinson, director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “There has been an epidemic of overcharging on household bills in the last year and yet we are still potentially looking at the tip of an iceberg.

According to uSwitch.com, being overcharged in the current economic climate is likely to make a drastic impact on household finances.

However, despite the potential hardship it can cause, those who have been overcharged have had to wait 58 days or almost two months on average to get the money repaid. For more than one in ten it took between two to six months to get their money back again.

Robinson added: “What this does tell us though is that people must look at their bills and not take it for granted that a company has got its sums right. I would also urge companies to do right by their customers too and to ensure that their bills are simple, clear and easy to understand.”

“With 95% of overcharging spotted by customers rather than the bill provider, it’s imperative that consumers are able to spot and resolve any mistakes quickly.”

The study highlighted that alongside the financial strain that overcharging can cause, consumers have over the last year spent an average of 6 hours and an estimated £22 on phone calls and correspondence trying to sort out overcharging.

While many were prepared to forgo these costs, 48% of consumers asked for them to be refunded, but only half were successful.

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