Most people in the UK have both an electricity and gas meter that need to be read every so often so the energy companies can charge you correctly for the amount of energy you consume.
The problem is that this requires either the homeowner to read the energy meter or an energy supplier employee to visit the property to make the reading. Now, as you might expect, the energy companies are loath to do this because it costs them money so often rather than putting the obligation on the homeowner they decide to estimate the energy usage.
The estimate is pretty much always based on historical data – so why can this cause a problem?
Estimated readings overestimate actual energy used
Since the energy companies are looking at old data to base their predicated energy usage on, they may overestimate the energy actually used in the house. This means the energy company is charging you for energy you don’t use. Now we have seen customers who have never changed energy supplier who have had their energy bills estimated for years.
This means when the energy company finally gets round to sending someone to your house, there is a high chance of a huge discrepancy in the actual energy usage figures versus their estimated readings.
Now in theory this could mean that you are in for a nice surprise, because the energy company have overestimated the amount of energy used and you are due a refund. The issue with this is that the energy company has benefited from holding your money and gained the interest on this. For an individual this may be fairly inconsequential, but when you consider British Gas have 15m customers, the amount of money they may be holding in this account and the interest they earn will surely help pay their top brass a nice bonus.
On the flipside, and this is the worse scenario for the home owner, they could have underestimated the energy usage – which means you have a shock bill to balance your energy usage.
This is a problem and we see it with our customers, they suddenly get a huge energy bill when they can least afford to pay it.
Estimated readings when you switch
This has happened to me personally, but when I left Npower in April this year, they gave my final reading as an estimated reading. This in theory was fine, except I got a huge ‘closing bill’ from them. Having swapped to Ovo (who I am delighted to report are a pleasure to deal with), they used this estimated reading as a opening balance.
When I gave my actual opening reading to Ovo, it appeared that I had been charged for 2,800 kWh more electricity than I had actually used.
This has still to be resolved, but Npower are adamant I owe them a decent amount of money despite the fact that they charged me for 2,800 kWh of electricity that I didn’t use.
I have no doubt this will be resolved, but it does involve painful negotiation between Ovo and Npower deciding where responsibility lies (I know this is my fault!)
Our No.1 Tip – Provide actual readings to your energy company
To be honest there is one outcome from all of this and that is to provide actual energy readings to the energy suppliers.
This means that they won’t hold on to more of your money than they should, you will receive no nasty surprises when they have underestimated your usage and also (and perhaps most importantly) you won’t have the energy companies on your back trying to charge you for energy you didn’t ever use!
It seems the energy companies are acting like wounded dogs at the moment, licking their wounds over repeated attacks from OFGEM and the Labour party. It is highly unlikely they are going to suddenly spend money to try and send more of their employees into peoples homes to take readings, so in this blog we show you how to read your electricity meter and in this blog we look at gas meters as well as how to turn those readings into approximations of how much you will end up owing your energy supplier!