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In the dark about gas and electricity back-billing?

man holding energy bill

Three quarters of people worry about the cost of energy. But what happens if your supplier hasn’t sent you a bill for months? Or years? Or even… two decades? That’s exactly what happened to Carol Kellar…

I was intrigued to read the story of Carol Kellar in the Guardian – she wasn’t sent an electricity bill for 20 years. That would add up to an electrifying estimated £10,000 in unpaid bills.

Carol was in the dark as she didn’t know which company to approach for her electricity dilemma. With a house move imminent, she went to the Guardian for help. In its investigations, the Guardian concluded that it was likely the property was originally supplied by Norweb, a company which no longer exists.

A historical saga of energy companies being bought and sold, as well as Carol’s house being listed as disconnected, was behind the problem. Eon, the eventual owner of Norweb and the property’s current supplier, said it would not be back-billing her as ‘we wouldn’t have records [as to what happened in 1998] – we didn’t own the company then’.

One of my colleagues also told me that he wasn’t billed by his supplier for six months and had to cough up the cash. So what exactly are the rules if you haven’t been receiving your bills?

Shedding light on back-billing

Essentially, a back-bill is a catch-up bill sent by your supplier when you haven’t been charged properly for your energy.

You’re obliged to pay for any energy you have used. However, Ofgem says you cannot be charged if you haven’t been billed for more than a year and this is the fault of your supplier.

That doesn’t mean you can try to get away with not contacting your supplier! If you haven’t made reasonable efforts to get in touch your supplier or didn’t co-operate with meter reading requests, you could still be liable to pay the whole debt. But even if your supplier wasn’t at fault, you cannot be charged for more than six year’s worth of back-billed energy.

If you are liable to pay, suppliers should offer you a payment plan that allows you to repay the debt over a longer period of time. For example, in my colleague’s case, he got his supplier to split the cost over 12 months so that he didn’t have to pay it all in one big lump sum.

So, has your energy supplier ever failed to send you a correct bill? What did you do? Did you end up having to pay for all of it?

Comments
Member

I get my normal bill every 3 months.

But every week I will take a meter reading for my gas/electric/water. I call this “Meter Reading Monday”. I then tweet SSE (who runs the billing system for Ebico) and tell them how much i have used: https://twitter.com/NewtBeaumont/status/377358450675568640 They then reply via e-mail or phone to tell me how much I have used.

It is normally around £3-£4 a week and i made payment via my debit card. This is what I love about Ebico, £0 standing charge and no extra fees for paying via my bank card & also i never have bill shocks or never have to pay a stupid amount of money as i never fall behind.

Member

Lee, Ebico is good for low energy users (less than 2100 kWh electricity / 11000 kWh gas). Above this it becomes more expensive than other tariffs. For a medium user gas is 10% more and electricity 11%. For a high user, gas is 18% more and electricity 27%.

Member

That is true Malcolm. To be honest I was with NPower till just a few months ago. NPower brought standing charges in and due to me being such a low user NPower told me about Ebico. The women from the call center was very nice and she took the time to explain it all to me.

I use around 1300kWh a year with electric (but trying to get it under 1000kWh. And I use 0 gas. i stopped using gas in February of this year and again, when NPower brought the standing charges in it would mean I would have to start getting a gas bill again.

Member

I already pay by monthly direct debit. I used to get bills every quarter they’ve now moved to an annual statement. I guess this is so people will get annoyed with the lack of information and will therefore like the idea of smart meters more.

Member

It seems to me that a lot of people spend their lives dodging what they owe. Most rational people should know that in this country they ought to receive an energy bill or have a little something in the bank for emergency repairs. If a person does not know who to contact, we have elected representatives to help.

Surely it’s time to stop cosseting the dodgers.

Member

I reckon that Carol Kellar should pay every penny she owes, plus interest, and demonstrate a little responsibility to society. Assuming that someone else was paying the bill is an interesting excuse but not a valid reason for not doing her duty, and the rest of us have been paying for her bills.

I thought that supply companies had a duty to inspect meters periodically. Not all properties use gas, but one without an electricity supply must be fairly uncommon, except in remote areas.

Member

Carol Kellar was correct in assuming someone else was paying for her electricity – all other customers of her supplier. If you were in her position would you have waited 20 years to find out. What would she have done if she had a prolonged power cut, waited until she decided to sell her house to sort it out. The money she saved over that period, approximately £10k, should be donated by her to Age UK to help some impoverished elderly people stay warm this Winter.

How long would you have waited before trying to identify your energy supplier?

Member

“So what exactly are the rules if you haven’t been receiving your bills?” says the introduction.
As you know you have been supplied with something for which you have not paid then it is dishonest not to sort it out. Whether it is a utility, or anything else you have purchased on credit. We complain enough in these conversations about malpractice by companies we deal with; dishonesty by individuals is equally despicable and it is the rest of us who pay for it.

Member

For those interested the final proposals from Ofgem are in the document at the following link: