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How often do you check your utility bills?

Utility bills

April is just around the corner and this means that the bills I pay in 8 or 10 monthly instalments, such as water and council tax, are landing on my doormat. Have your bills for the year ahead arrived yet, and have you checked them?

I’m ashamed to say that in the past I haven’t even bothered to open these bills. Although there was a small increase last year, the council tax monthly payment hasn’t gone up for around seven years and the water rates usually change by such a small amount that I barely notice the difference.

Knowing that council tax is set to go up this year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting my bill. So when the water rates one came in first, I ripped it open, expecting it to have risen by a couple of quid. Imagine the surprise, then, when I read that it was increasing by more than £60 a year, with my monthly payments going from £22.06 to £30.31.

Balancing bills

Prompted by the information I’d gleaned from working at Which?, last year I arranged for my water provider to come out to see if I could go on a meter in the hope my rates would go down a little.

Unfortunately, living in a Victorian house that’s been carved up into three flats with old lead piping renders my property unsuitable. However, the company did advise me that I could claim single occupancy (although it couldn’t be backdated, for some reason), so I got my wish in the end and my bill was decreased.

My circumstances haven’t changed in the past year, so I couldn’t understand the dramatic increase for this year. Incensed, I promptly called up my provider to query the bill. Turns out it’s completely wrong and has actually gone down by £2 a month.

Challenging a bill hike

Had I not opened the bill, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the increase for a good few months and would have been out of pocket by £10 a month.

The saga has got me checking my other bills to see whether they’ve also increased. As I’ve opted to go paperless for the majority of them I rarely log in to my accounts to keep tabs on my statements.

Lo and behold, payments for my broadband/TV/phone bundle have been creeping up over the past few months and we’ve just had the news that my mobile phone bill is about to increase, too. If you’re on a pay-monthly contract customer with EE, O2, Three or Vodafone then you’ll be seeing your mobile phone bill go up in the coming months, while pay-as-you-go customers will be unaffected.

So I’ll be shopping around to see if I can negotiate some better deals, and I’m definitely going to change my reckless ways and check my utility bills from here on in.

How often do you check your utility bills? Have you spotted a bill hike and managed to haggle for a better deal?


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I always check ALL bills it is foolish not to do so as mistakes can be made and often are

This is very pertinent to me, as I believe we had a faulty smart meter fitted last year, which over-read. Ovo fitted it, and after a year of it failing to send readings (no mobile signals, here) we had it swapped out. Meanwhile, they informed me we were apparently underpaying and owed hundreds,

Being Ovo, we’d deliberately set our monthly payment at a very high point, and most years were able to get back several hundred, so that came as a surprise. Once we had the new meter in, I calculated our average expenditure over the previous 12 months from the final reading when they swapped it out and it did indeed, come to much higher than usual.

So I calculated the usage since it was removed (1st Nov) and the 1st Feb. Being the darkest and coldest period of the year that should have been very high. However, it only showed what previous, non-smart meter years had shown, so I got back in touch.

I challenged them to prove their meter was perfect, but they’d “already sent it back to the ‘engineers'” and couldn’t test it (!) and after several more emails between us (they do reply very promptly…) they stated they were sorry: “While investigating the smart meter’s reading history we found that the smart meter had defaulted to dual rate mode from 30/03/2016 to 18/07/2016. This means during this period it registered day and night consumption separately. We have reversed your billing and have
updated the meter details and reading history to be the readings recorded by the meter.”

They did refund the money, but that’s not the point. I believe the smart meter was definitely faulty, now, and the fact they can’t trace it any longer does suggest something fishy.

When Ovo replaced the smart meters installed by e.on the job was done by another company and I expect that this is normal practice. Ovo is still responsible even if they have never seen the meter. I took photos of the meter readings before they were replaced.

The record of past consumption, which should be available from present and past suppliers, could be helpful in establishing if there is a problem with a meter. I expect that consumers have protection against unexpected energy bills if the company has neither been taking meter readings nor notified the customer that they are underpaying for a significant period. I’m glad you received a refund.

I knew council tax was likely to increase but had not realised that it is rising by about 5%. 🙁

My water is already on a meter and I’m on a fixed price contract for energy, but I could save by switching to a cheaper SIM-only mobile plan. I’m not using all these unlimited calls and data allowances – which are my top priority because I tether my laptop to the phone – are becoming more generous.

More tax ostensibly to pay for social care and the police. Maybe we should, as council tax payers, pay more attention to the money wasted on their executives – e.g. a £440 000 pay off to a CE after just 24 hours in the job. Why do not we have more say in how our councils are run?

The answer to that is fairly obvious: councils don’t trust the electorate. If they did, they’d implement a system whereby a sufficiently high number of council-tax payers could call a referendum on certain issues.

Council tax payers rarely get an insight into dodgy goings-on in their local council. They are reported every two weeks in Private Eye, but the frustration is nothing seems to result. I’d have thought there would be oversight to keep control of their actions.

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I wonder when the rather outdated Council Tax bands will be reviewed and updated. Anyone can challenge their current band and might achieve a lower band, but on the other had it could go up, so it’s best to study similar properties nearby, assuming that comparisons can be made.

You might well increase your tax band, and that of your neighbours. A national revaluation is the right way, in my view, to do this but hopefully is not something we will spend much-needed money on at the present time. The house we live in may well have increased in relative value, and thus could attract a higher tax, but many in such situations will not have income to pay the tax and the family home is not something they would want to move out of. It is perhaps not a fair taxation method, but if we want councils more freedom to raise tax we could use a local income tax to spread the burden onto those with higher incomes

I’m not sure we should put this off. Those homes that have been extended should certainly be looked at to make sure that owners are paying their fair share.

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What is a “fair share”? I don’t really see whether extending your 2 bed bungalow with an extra room necessarily means you will have more wealth to dispense, or make more use of council services. Perhaps the tax should be based on the number of occupants, or the amount of use you make of “variable” council services such as schools. The size of your house seems to bear little relation to this, no more than it is used nationally to decide on your tax contribution.

But I do not see a perfect system and we will all have differing views no doubt.

The best system is to scrub council tax entirely and put in all on the central taxation system. There are serious arguments that can be made for why, for instance, childless couples should pay vast sums for schools, or why libraries are important or not. Local taxation has always ended in tears; it’s supposed to ensure greater accountability, but all too often it simply ends up funding the already highly paid council administration staff.

I have been a Utility Warehouse customer for some years. For the past few years I began to check my usage regularly. I always give the actual meter reading on the last day of the month.I have a letter from them saying this is NOT as accurate as their “estimates”?
Last month, and this bill they have accepted my actual meter reading, and ADDED their higher estimate, charging me the difference, and showing that I owe them this money. They have ignored my e-mails.
I can only guess that their software is programmed to do this.

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Roy Blake says:
21 August 2021

I’m now with Octopus Energy, recommended by Which, for the last 3 years. We were with British Gas for over 50 years!
Saved over £300 per year, and I read and submit readings monthly, Octopus update my data with a current status bill withing 1-2 days.
Offered smart meters, but with the current installation mayhem, will wait until the dust settles.