How to challenge an unfair energy bill as providers warned on soaring direct debits

ENERGY bill prices are at an all time high and customers are having to fork out a lot more than before to meet the rising costs.

But what happens if the amount you're being charged is unfairly high? We reveal how you can challenge your bill.

It comes as some providers have been accused of hiking customers' direct debit payments by "more than is necessary".

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said yesterday on Twitter: "Some energy suppliers have been increasing direct debits beyond what is required."

He went on to explain that a new review will come into force, giving suppliers three weeks to address their increased rates, along with profits they may have made in the meantime.

Suppliers are allowed to raise monthly charges of course, but it must be only according to a household's usage.

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You usually get told 10 days before it goes up too.

And the price cap in place to stop energy providers overcharging as well.

The price cap went up on April 1 though, adding £693 on average to about 18 million household's standard tariff bills.

But it might not be the only rise as a further increase to the cap could come later in the year too, when energy bills could rise ANOTHER £600.

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But with all the hiked prices, plenty of suppliers have failed to keep up, and over 30 have gone bust in the past year alone.

When an energy supplier goes bust, regulator Ofgem automatically assigns a new provider.

But that also means unsuspecting consumers have seen bills soar after their original providers went bust and they were moved.

They can dispute this amount, or submit an exact meter reading to ensure the increase is linked to their actual usage though.

Especially as direct debits are based on predicted energy use across the year and then divided into equal monthly payments.

Here's what you can do to make sure you ARE paying what you should be.

How to challenge your bill

Before you go to take on your hiked bill, you need to know your rights.

If it's by direct debit that you pay, then it has to be a "fair and reasonable" amount.

If you disagree, you can complain to the company, and failing that, you can take it to the independent Energy Ombudsman to dispute.

But if you ask, your supplier must clearly explain why it's chosen that amount for your direct debit.

Then, if you've got credit, you have every right to get it back, too.

Your supplier must refund you or explain exactly why not otherwise.

And Ofgem can fine suppliers if they don't.

But if you are fighting back, make sure to bring a few tricks in tow so you can make sure to get what you're after out of the dispute.

Taking a meter reading is a must.

That way the company can't rely on estimates which may lead to you being overcharged – and it leaves no room for error either, as the readings are there in black and white showing what you actually used.

You can simply call to ask for a lower direct debit then.

Martin Lewis' MoneySavingExpert team says that if you find you're always in credit, you should request the direct debit be lowered to reflect your ACTUAL annual usage and meter readings.

But beware that you don’t end up in debt later on with a bigger catch up bill at the end of the year from underpayments racking up.

If you don't have success in negotiating a lower payment then you can put in a complaint.

You can usually get in touch by email, letter or telephone, but keep a record of contact that you make so you can reference it later if need be.

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Charities like Citizens Advice have template complaints letters you can use to help with the process.

Meanwhile, free online tools from Resolver.co.uk can also help you track and manage a complaint step-by-step. 

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