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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?


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.

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%.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

“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.

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


On the controversial question of tariffs and standing charges:
“Tariff structure and surcharges
2.13. Stakeholders were supportive of our effort to standardise and simplify tariff structures. Some stakeholders do not feel the policy goes far enough and have proposed we consider removing standing charges and adopt a single unit rate structure. While our policy requires suppliers to adopt a standing charge and unit rate structure, we do not specify the level of standing charge and consequently any standing charge can be zero. Ofgem does not regulate prices in the retail energy market, and therefore the level of any prices results entirely from the commercial decisions of energy suppliers. Suppliers have fixed costs which they may look to recover through a standing charge. However, given the level of demand for low or zero standing charge products, in a competitive market we might expect such tariffs to be offered.
2.14. One respondent expressed concern that if wide proliferation of standing charges occurs it may undermine tariff simplicity. Whilst a wide proliferation of standing charges may work against what we are trying to achieve in terms of simplicity and comparability, we consider the potential for this to happen is significantly limited by our proposals to introduce a tariff cap. Moreover, there are benefits if consumers have a degree of choice over the standing charges to which they are exposed. This, in part, is why we are not proposing a range of rules around the standing charge element of our proposed revisions to the tariff structure. As with other areas of the package, we will monitor market developments and do not rule out taking steps to introduce further remedies in the event that there is evidence that more needs to be done to protect consumers and improve competition.”

And on communication
“Cheapest Tariff Messaging (‘CTM’) provides consumers with personalised information on how much they could save by switching tariffs with their current supplier. This is designed to improve consumers‟ awareness of the savings available from switching and prompt them to consider their options.”
which, of course, may also give the customers sufficient information to help them shop around – to see if other suppliers can offer a cheaper annual bill.

SusanPirie says:
31 July 2014

Npower billing probs affected us and no bill for 20 months despite numerous calls, readings, emails by us. When they did bill they used direct debit to bill energy beyond 12 months . Not only this but our bill has someone else’s address on it and charges a tariff that we didn’t ask for, indeed didn’t even exist until 9 months later. A complete shambles, don’t even know where to begin but to tell others not to go near. Must have spoken at least a dozen times to them, as many emails and still completely wrong. What do you do?

Are you aware that if an energy company hasn’t billed you in more than 12 months and its their fault you may not have to pay.

Courtesy of the Code of Practice : Back Billing

see https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/64010/back-billing-leaflet-2012.pdf

SusanPirie says:
1 August 2014

Yes,have pointed 2 number of clauses within backbilling which they state if you have paid by direct debit they can apply credit back beyond 12 months and only write off difference if applicable.

Brian says:
4 June 2015

I didn’t receive a electricity bill for the first 14 months of my tenancy and now I only receive bills every 3 months stating I don’t use any electric. I am not named on the bills just to the occupier, I have told my landlord and wrote to the energy company. I am about to move out and don’t want to be stuck if a big bill.

michelle says:
6 November 2015

I moved into my house and didnt get a bill for 3/4 years, I rang everyone to see who supplied it but all said no, one day got letter from eon, we supply your gas, next day bill for nearly 4000, didnt know I didn’t have to pay it, now on card meter, going to be paying it back for years,

Scottish Power have sent my son a bill for £1000 + in respect of a flat he left 16 months ago; he was on a prepayment meter but the bill shows payments as nil – how do they think he obtained electricity other than by feeding the meter ?? I have spoken to Scottish Power who have suspended action for payment while they investigate.

j Tilson says:
19 December 2015

Npower tryed to charge me for 6445 of gas when my reading was 0553 they have pushed me to the brink of suicide.

Hi there j Tilson, thanks for your message. Have you followed up with Npower to resolve this at all? If there’s something that we can help you with then you can contact us directly via ‘Get in touch’ under ‘Need help?’

Eon have supplied me since my new build was complete – we have paid for gas and electricity every month and they have read both meters every 3 months fir 3 years.
I was in credit by £600 until we came to renew our energy contract in Feb 2017 that expired in March 2017.
The renewals dept said my gas figures were very high and my electricity figures were extremely low.
They investigated and asked me to take daily readings.
I have now been back billed fir £9000 as the 3 phase meter had been read wrong by them and my wife ( it is a 3 phase meter and it gives a CUMD 1 and a Kwh reading).
They have rejected my claims that they should have trained professionals reading meters and That Back Billing should not go back more than 12 months.
At the moment they are still demanding £9000 😢

Hey David, what happened? Is there any update on the situation?

.com says:
1 May 2019

That’s exactly same with me with Eon paid extremely high gas and electric for 7 year on the dot estimated bills but they failed to turn up to appointments , they had instructions to see Meter , side of house all was good until they said they had it wrong I owe 7000 k , have used the 12 month clause but there saying I refused access 3 times I work from home .. this needs to be stopped

Vel says:
29 March 2018

This has just happened to I haven’t been charged electric for over 2 years. Apartment owner is now asking me to pay back $2000 in back pay. I asked the apartment manager in the beginning if I needed to put the electricity in my name. She said she didn’t know. In my lease there is no clear writing about it. The electricity was already on when I moved in and stayed on for two years. Since my previous apartment included the electricity in the rent I didn’t think much of this until now. I wonder why it took over two years to bring this up to me. Now when I look over the lease I can see a scribbled ‘elc” on the side of the lease…. So I’m guessing this might mean the electricity is included? I’m feeling like this is a bit unreasonable to ask me to pay all of this at once.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Although in theory you’re right, Duncan, don’t forget that companies can apparently change the Ts and Cs whenever they like – as Which? does when it suits them.

The right to change their Ts & Cs at any time is in one of Which?’s …………..terms and conditions
(“6 Varying these terms and conditions Which? may vary these terms at any time,)

Yes…wonder how Which? would regard any business that used a clause of that type to disadvantage its customers? Not to mention, of course, that shutting down an entire service is a tad more than a ‘variation’. What we need, I suppose, is an organisation that would look out for the consumer, and stop big businesses taking advantage of them. Any ideas?

Perhaps a new Which? campaign……

………….Make T&Cs Fair To Consumers

Oh Look…….what was this one…
We’ve launched a campaign to simplify terms and conditions

where they state:

So the Chancellor, George Osborne, has asked us to lead the campaign working with government and businesses to change the way they present their terms and conditions, particularly online, and help ensure there are no surprises for consumers.

Executive Richard Lloyd said:
‘Consumers shouldn’t have to read endless pages of baffling jargon just to ensure there are no nasty surprises hidden away in the terms and conditions.’

We’re working with the Government to persuade businesses to improve their T&Cs, including bringing prominent companies around the table to address issues with T&Cs. The aim is to find an agreed approach that will ensure companies clearly display key terms upfront and to test this with consumers.

Richard Lloyd added: ‘We will be working with industry and the Government to test how T&Cs are presented, particularly online and on mobile devices, to help ensure they work better for consumers.’

Wonderful! Time to start a new thread, methinks.

Krissie says:
28 September 2019

A friend of mine has been in dispute with Npower for seven years. They sent her letters of credit and took payment via direct debit, then stopped taking payments without informing her. She assumed therefore that all was in order until she received a bill for over £7000 – a sum which would cover her usage for seven years. She tried contacting the supplier MANY times for an explanation of the amount but was either ignored or fobbed off. Eventually they took her to court but didn’t bother sending in a defence so judgement was set aside. In desperation she contacted the Energy Ombudsman who didn’t rule in her favour even though the back billing code of practice is relevant to her case. Npower is not adhering to it and is now threatening her with debt collectors even though there is no CCJ against her. They seem to have ignored the fact that an Ombudsman’s ruling is not legally binding on the complainant. I wonder also whether the Statute of Limitations would apply in her case.