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?