Every energy customer urged to check bills NOW for errors as thousands could end up in debt

HOUSEHOLDS should check their bills for errors now, or risk ending up in debt later down the line.

The warning comes as some customers have noticed inaccuracies on their statements, which have forced them to fork out thousands of pounds in one lump sum.

No matter which company you're with, it's important to note that energy and electricity suppliers don't always get the bill right.

And with prices currently sky high, it's more important than ever to avoid being caught short by a costly billing error.

But you can reduce the risk of this by staying on top of your statements, whether by email or post, so any changes or inaccuracies can be spotted as soon as they crop up.

If you don't receive your bill monthly, speak to your supplier to see if it can assist with sending you regular statements.

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One woman posted a warning in the Facebook group, Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK group after she was stung by a billing error.

She was moved over to British Gas from another company last year, and noticed that her account was in credit for electricity.

She said: "I'm on a smart meter and I also give meter readings – but on my energy bill, the electricity has been "nil" on-and-off for the last couple of months, but gas was still charged."

After speaking with the supplier, the woman was told that there is an issue with a number of customers who were changed over from other companies last year, which is leading to billing errors.

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She said: "Fortunately, I'm still in a small amount of credit, but if this would have gone on, it could have been a real issue."

Her post amassed over 200 comments, with people noting that they're in similar situations.

A fellow group member said: "I'm currently in this situation after being switched to EDF – they charged me for electricity and not gas – now on top of the price hikes I'm paying off a monthly debt."

While another said: "I had the same issue yet I’ve been with British Gas for years.

"My bill only updated with gas and not electric, so I thought I was in credit until I called – I don’t understand how they can get if so wrong when you have a smart meter!"

Research by Citizens Advice revealed that billing errors are the most common complaint for people contacting the consumer service helpline – totally around 60% of calls.

Here's what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

What are my rights?

If you find that your supplier has made an error, you may not always have to pay for their mistake, depending on the timeframe.

Companies are legally obliged to write off any debts accumulated based on an error that was made over 12 months ago, according to Ofgem.

This is known as back-billing, and you are only required to cough up for any unpaid consumption within the last 12 months.

Contact your supplier if you get a bill for energy usage that’s for more than a year ago, and explain that you understand you're protected by the back-billing rules. 

We spoke to Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, about back-billing and consumer rights.

Sarah notes the importance of paying for any back billing that falls within a year.

She said: "Paying is a priority, because if you don’t, they have the right to cut off your energy supply.

"If you can’t afford to pay in one lump sum, talk to the energy company and they should arrange for you to pay it off in instalments."

Refusing to pay could result in dealing with a debt collection agency, Sarah adds.

How to avoid costly bill mistakes

Sarah said: "Anything from IT errors to account mix-ups and faulty meters can mean you’re being overcharged."

It's best to get in touch with your supplier directly to question the errors.

Check whether you have a debt or credit building up on your account.

Over summer, it's common for accounts to be in credit, which can be used later on in the winter months.

Though Sarah said: "If you have a big debt or major surplus you can speak to the company and ask them to review your direct debit, and refund extra credit."

She also encourages households to check whether their bills are based on estimates, as estimations based on long period usage can mean being significantly under or over charged.

She said: "This is one reason why people have received big bills out of the blue in the past."

To avoid this, it's best to take regular meter readings.

Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch, told The Sun: "Customers should provide a meter reading regularly and check in with their supplier that they are billed according to the actual readings.

"If you don't have a smart meter, it is good to get into a habit of submitting a meter reading at least once a month."

Meanwhile, we reveal the exact date energy customers can apply for up to £1,000 to ease bill pressure.

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