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Households overpay their energy bills by up to £85

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UK households have overpaid their gas and electricity bills to the tune of £928m – or £85 per household.

Research for GoCompare Energy found 39% of households have overpaid their energy bills, and nearly a quarter have made excess payments of over £100. Those in Yorkshire and Humberside were most likely (49%) to have overpaid their energy bills, while those in London were the least likely (29%).

Customers who find they have paid for more energy than they have used can leave the overpayment on their account to offset against future bills. Currently only 9% of UK households in credit with their energy supplier have asked for a refund.

GoCompare said the ‘big six’ energy providers (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) have direct debit policies covering refunds. Typically, these companies conduct annual reviews of accounts and, subject to an accurate meter reading, automatically refund overpayments of £5 or over. However, customers with overpaid bills are entitled to ask their supplier, at any point in the year, for a refund. Providers are obliged to refund overpayments unless there are reasonable grounds not to do so.

Customers in London (14%) and the North East (14%) are the most likely to ask for their money back, while those in Wales (4%) are the least likely. However, residents in Wales (32%) who’ve overpaid bills top the list of those most likely to ask for their direct debt payments to be lowered (22% for the UK).

Ben Wilson of GoCompare Energy, said, “According to Ofgem figures, more than half of us settle our energy bills by direct debit. Once set up payments are made automatically, removing the physical hassle of paying bills. Payments are spread evenly throughout the year which helps to make household budgeting easier. Providers also usually offer a discount on DD bills. However, because of the way DDs are calculated, some customers may end up paying too much – particularly by the end of the summer when energy usage has been lower.

“An easy way to help avoid building up a surplus on your energy account is to ensure you provide your gas and electricity provider with regular meter readings and, to read your bill when it arrives. This will help you and your provider better understand your estimated usage and whether this is in line with your actual consumption – which should lead to more accurate bills.”

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