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Author: Internal Customer Services Agent

What the mild winter means for British households

As we will all probably recall, last year saw one of the mildest winters on record with temperature not dropping to the same bitterly cold degrees seen in years gone by. As a result of this up to 11 million British Households could be owed an eye-watering 1.5 billion in total, thanks to over-payment in these usually freezing months. Energy suppliers for facing a circumstance where a vast majority of their customers continued to make repayment at a level which expected increased usage, when the reality was in fact very different. New research suggests we should all check our estimates against our actual usage via a meter reading. For consumers who find their estimate meant over payment for energy costs, a request for a refund should be submitted. Last year was in actual fact the third mildest winter ever recorded and as such Uswitch has conducted research to see the likeliness of overpayment as a result of this fact. Not so surprising their research has highlighted that in fact, British households could be owed a refund of £132.00 each. This of course is the average figure and in reality a sizable percentage of these consumers could be owed as much as £200.00 in reality. The research conducted by Uswitch also discovered that on average energy account providers increased their estimates by 27% this year compared to last and as such it is even more important that consumers take the time to compare their estimate to actual usage and establish if and where a refund may be due.

Depending on how you make repayment towards your energy costs on a monthly basis there will be a number of different routes which can be taken to ensure a refund is received. The first port of call is to provide the energy supplier with an accurate reading which can then be directly compared to the estimate previously provided. In some instances suppliers will have adjusted your direct debit accordingly or even processed a return on an automatic basis but checking if this is the case is still very much worthwhile. To support consumers in their quest to ensure they have paid energy suppliers what is due and no more, Ofgem rules that suppliers must repay any credit if requested so an up to date meter reading will help in this quest. As part of their research Uswitch surveyed 2000 consumers and found that as much as 72% has reduced their energy consumption as a result of the mild winter experienced. This highlights the importance of keeping up to date on meter readings and therefore ensuring over payments do not continue to be made where it is not necessary to do so.

Whilst many consumers expressed that they notably reduced their energy consumption by not having to maintain heating for extended periods, some 1 third of consumers remain in debt with their energy suppliers, translating to a figure of 3.5 million consumers. Whilst energy costs remain one of consumers most important considerations, Uswitch recommend maintaining a relationship with your supplier, even when in arrears to prevent the situation continuing to worsen over time. This means consumers need to openly and honestly communicate the level of difficulty they are currently facing and further more break this down to the knock-on effect with regards to energy bill repayments. Many of the major suppliers will be prepared to work with consumers who express difficulty in repayment or a general change in circumstances which effects repayment being made. Open communication remains key and allowing both parties to reach an agreement which is mutually acceptable and realistic. Avoiding unpaid and overdue bills will almost certainly lead to further charges and problems in the not so distant future. Consumers generally need to be mindful of prioritising their costs, with energy being one of the highest consideration. Other priority costs are all other costs linked to the basic running of the household such as, rent or mortgage repayments as well as water and council tax. All these costs attribute to the management of the household in every sense and therefore cannot be discounted to ensure other less ‘pressing’ bills are satisfied. For consumers who are struggling to effectively manage their energy based costs as well as other basic living requirements, a free advice service such as Step Change, may be a port of call. Step Change being charity based offers consumers tips and advice on how expenditure can be better managed and also offers steps for taking action to ensure further difficulty and debt is not experienced in the not so distant future. For more information on Step Change, they have a website available to consumers via www.stepchange.org  

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