Why your utility provider probably owes you £86

Gas and electricity providers owe British homeowners more than £1 billion, according to new research.

Two-thirds of homeowners in the UK are in credit with their energy supplier, which works out at an overpayment of £86.60 each on average, so says a survey of 1,283 randomly selected h…

Gas and electricity providers owe British homeowners more than £1 billion, according to new research.

Two-thirds of homeowners in the UK are in credit with their energy supplier, which works out at an overpayment of £86.60 each on average, so says a survey of 1,283 randomly selected homeowners carried out at the end of September.

Almost a quarter of those who had overpaid had racked up a credit balance of more than £100 – an admirable position to be in during the colder months.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of homeowners with a positive utilities balance said they usually just let the overpayment smooth out throughout the year.

But in contrast, more than one in ten (11 per cent) ask for a refund whenever their bill went into credit, while more than two-fifths (21 per cent) preferred to use the credit to reduce their monthly payments.

Left out in the cold

At the back-end of November, GB Energy Supply became the first domestic energy supplier to close in ten years, and its collapse has raised concerns over how consumers ensure an ongoing energy supply.

Luckily, the regulator Ofcom provides a safety net in events such as these, negating any risk of being left out in the cold without a utilities provider and minimising the likelihood of financial loss for the consumer.

Aptly enough, Ofcom is responsible for ensuring that consumers don’t lose out on any outstanding credit with their provider, but despite this, GoCompare.com – which commissioned the survey – believes consumers may now be cautious about working up large credit balances, in light of GB Energy Supply’s closure.

Ben Wilson, GoCompare.com’s energy product manager, said that although direct debits are an effective way of spreading out your annual gas and electricity bills, the way they are calculated can mean that some customers end up paying more than they need to.

“Energy suppliers generally decide what to bill you by estimating your annual energy consumption and dividing this into 12 equal monthly payments,” he explained.

“If your account is in credit after winter bills have been settled, then you should seek a refund from your supplier.”

He also urged consumers to challenge their supplier and demand a review of their annual usage if they suspect monthly direct debit payments have been set too high.

By Joe White

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