Gas and electricity Updated:
With energy bills only ever seeming to be on the rise, it's always encouraging to get some good news from the sector. Happily, it was announced yesterday that four of the big six energy companies (as well as smaller firm First Utility) will now automatically refund direct debit customers who are in credit, ensuring customers get the money they're entitled to.
The agreement came following negotiations between the companies and the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), and as a result customers will now automatically be refunded if their credit balance is above a certain threshold. Alternatively, they'll have the option to roll the money over to be taken off the next bill – it's all in the customer's hands.
"This is important and welcome news for the 55 per cent of energy customers who chose to pay by direct debit…. this will ensure that customers are rightly returned the cash that is theirs without having to ask," said Greg Barker, Minister for Energy and Climate Change.
Under the new rules, the supplier will contact the customer at the mid-year point of an annual direct debit arrangement to ask for a meter reading (if necessary), and will use that information to recalculate the direct debit for the remainder of the year so it's as accurate as possible. This will ideally avoid a large amount of credit or debit being on the account at year-end, and if the credit balance is over a certain level the customer will be automatically refunded.
EON was already offering this facility but now EDF, SSE, British Gas and First Utility are joining them. The big six companies will offer automatic refunds when credit balances are £5 or above at annual review point, while First Utility has agreed to refund customers when their balance is £10.
The changes have been designed to give customers more control over their energy bills and, hopefully, restore trust in the sector, and it's hoped that other energy firms will follow suit.
With household budgets being increasingly squeezed it's good to know that customers could get a bit of extra cash every now and again, and if you want to make your money go even further make sure to compare energy tariffs to find the best deals.
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