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Survey reveals 70% of households have been overcharged for energy

By Katie Anderson on July 1, 2013

A survey carried out by uSwitch has revealed that the majority of households have been charged too much for energy in the past twelve months.

Approximately 70 per cent of respondents claimed to have been overcharged by energy suppliers at least once in the past year, whilst 33 per cent experienced overcharging on multiple occasions.

The average overcharge was just under £200, but 11 per cent of households were asked to pay twice that or more.

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents claimed that they had noticed the overcharges themselves; in fact, just 5 per cent of mistakes were identified and remedied by suppliers. uSwitch estimates that energy firms may have overcharged UK households by as much as £6.7 billion in the past twelve months.

Accounting for 42 per cent of overcharges, a number of additional rates were applied in error by suppliers. 32 per cent of households were sent higher-than-expected bills after suppliers charged them for usage on the wrong tariff, whilst a quarter of bill payers were not given the discounts or offers that they had been promised. Perhaps most worrying of all, 25 per cent of respondents had received bills that were simply incorrect.

If a quarter of energy bills are inaccurate, but only 5 per cent of errors are noticed and dealt with by suppliers, could overcharging be even more extensive than the uSwitch survey suggests?

Ann Robinson, Consumer Policy Director at uSwitch, described overcharging in the domestic energy sector as “rife”. In a statement published on the uSwitch website, Ms Robinson urged consumers to scrutinise their bills. She also called on suppliers to address the problem by making household bills “simpler, clearer and easier to understand”.

The cost of energy in the UK has become a serious problem for millions of households. In March, the Association for the Conservation of Energy published a report that placed Britain at the bottom of a list of European nations that suffer from fuel poverty. According to the report, almost 20 per cent of Britons are fuel poor, compared to just 8 per cent of people living in the Netherlands.

Domestic energy bills can be reduced by installing double glazing, new central heating controls and loft and cavity wall insulation.