When a mistake has been made with your gas or electricity bill, meaning that you haven’t paid enough for your energy usage over a certain period, your supplier will send you a back bill.
There’s no limit to how much a back bill can amount to but back billing rules are in place to prevent energy suppliers from charging you for energy used more than 12 months prior to being sent the bill.
Receiving an energy back bill out of the blue can come as a shock so it’s important to know if you’re protected by the back billing rules, which we’ll take you through in this article.
What is back billing?
You will be sent a back bill by your energy supplier when you haven’t been correctly charged for energy being used around your home. Back bills can be the result of:
- Issues with an energy supplier’s billing system
- The supplier having to estimate bills until they receive an actual meter reading
- Failure to let the supplier know when you’ve moved into a new property
Either of these could later reveal that a customer’s energy consumption is higher than they were previously charged in their energy bill. To make up for the difference, the energy supplier will then send the customer a back bill (sometimes known as a ‘catch-up’ bill).
There’s no cap as to how much a backbill from your gas or electricity supplier can charge but in 2015 energy regulator, Ofgem, introduced back billing rules. These rules have been set in place to protect customers from, not only the financial trouble they could be left in, but the mental strain receiving an unexpected bill can have on a person.
Back billing rules
Energy suppliers are unable to request payment 12 months after the period where a customer wasn’t charged enough for the energy usage. So, for example, if you’ve had no electricity bill for a year, you might end up not having to pay for all the electricity you’ve used. Should the supplier attempt to charge you for energy used more than 12 months ago, you’re protected by Ofgem’s back billing rules.
In the case that this happens, you will need to contact your energy supplier to say that you’re protected by the back billing rules. You will be able to see clear details of your energy supplier’s back billing protection in their terms and conditions.
This protection only applies if the energy supplier is at fault. You will have no protection if any of the following apply:
- You haven’t attempted to contact your energy supplier to arrange payment. For example, not letting the supplier know you’ve moved into a property;
- You’ve avoided making payments to your energy supplier;
- Failing to provide meter readings when requested by your supplier or not granting them entry to your meter to make a reading.
How much could a back bill cost?
While customers are protected from energy suppliers charging them for energy used more than 12 months ago, there’s no limit to how much the bill could amount to.
Between October 2016 and March 2017, data from Citizens Advice revealed that a typical back bill amounted to £1,160. However, some back bills in that time period came to over £10,000.
This research shows how much of an impact back billing can have, particularly on vulnerable customers.
Ensure accurate energy billing
To help with ensuring that you’re receiving accurate energy bills at the right time of year, you can help by:
- Providing your energy supplier with regular accurate meter readings;
- Letting your supplier know when you’re moving in or out of a property.
Back billing support
As well as the back billing rules put in place by Ofgem, you can get further support by contacting the Citizens Advice if you’re having trouble with your energy bills.