MILLIONS of households should take a gas and electric meter reading soon as they face higher bills within days.
Martin Lewis has warned that people should take a metre reading just before to avoid paying more than they need to.
Energy bills will rise by nearly £700 on average, from April 1 when the price cap on bills increases from £1,277 to £1,971.
The money saving expert recently shared the tip on his ITV Show, for taking a metre reading the day before the rise on March 31 – a date that is fast approaching.
Around 22million households are now on standard variable tariffs that are subject to the price cap, but the exact amount your bill will rise will depend on how much you use.
Martin said that taking the meter reading on this date will "draw a line in the sand" between the energy you have used at the current rate, and the higher rate from April 1.
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He said that it essentially says to your energy firm "I've only used this amount at the cheaper rate, don't start charging me more on the higher rate and estimating I use some of it afterwards".
More than half of households pay energy bills using direct debit, according to the energy regulator Ofgem.
The amount you pay for energy via direct debit is "smoothed" out over the year.
It means you pay the same amount each month, even when your energy usage changes – you generally use more gas and electric in winter and less in summer.
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An accurate meter reading means you're more likely to get billed for what you are actually using rather than estimated amounts.
Martin last week warned MPs that he believed some energy companies are playing "fast and lose" and increasing customer's direct debits out of proportion with the bill hike.
He told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee: "There is no reason to double someone's direct debit when they're in credit and the price cap is going up 54%.
How to make sure you're direct debit is correct
Taking the meter reading at the right time can help you avoid paying more than you should for energy.
If you're in credit and your direct debit is rising "way above the rate rise, there's an issue" Martin has previously warned.
Anyone in this situation who thinks their bill is rising by more than it needs to, should first takes a meter reading and share it with their energy company.
This means that the calculation they use to work out your direct debit is based on your most recent usage.
You can then ask your energy supplier to adjust the amount if you're not happy.
But energy customers paying by direct debit need to be careful they don't reduce their monthly payments so low that they end up in debt and owing money to their supplier.
When an energy supplier increases your direct debit, it must explain why and it must give you at least 10 days notice, according to Ofgem.
Energy firms usually review direct debits twice a year, the regulator says.
If you are in a large credit, you can ask for a refund, but building up a credit over the summer usually pays for the higher energy use over winter.
Martin also took to Twitter to warn direct debit customers about cancelling their direct debits altogether.
Energy bill help if you're struggling
There are schemes offered by suppliers, local councils, charities and the government that could help.
If you're struggling with energy costs or other bills there are plenty of organisations where you can seek advice for free, including:
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
- Step Change – 0800 138 1111
- Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
You should speak to your energy supplier in the first instance as they have schemes in place to help with bills and arrears, including hardship funds and grants.
Your local council may also be able to help with cash and grants if you are struggling with bills through the Household Support Scheme – but there are just days left to get the current funding so be quick.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he was extending the fund in his Spring Statement, and the fresh £500million will be available from April, though the exact date will depend on where you live.
The winter fuel payment scheme, where those getting the state pension can get between £100 and £300 to offset the cost of keeping their homes warm.
Low income households can get £25 a week to help with energy bills during the winter thanks to the cold weather payment scheme too.
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The warm home discount scheme means you can a £140 payment that goes toward your heating costs but applications are now closed until next year.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £150 council tax discount for millions of Brits in an attempt to ease the cost of living crisis. That will start being paid from April.
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