HALF a million energy customers are to have their direct debits reviewed as the regulator slammed firms for 'unfair' bill increases.
The energy regulator, Ofgem, has ordered firms which increased direct debits by over 100% to urgently review bills.
The six worst firms, out of 17 suppliers, with the biggest flaws were Ecotricity, Good Energy, Green Energy UK and Utilita Energy, TruEnergy and UK Energy Incubator Hub (UKEIH).
Customers who have had direct debits hiked unfairly will be able to get repayments – and some may even get compensation, the regulator said.
Energy prices went up in April after the price cap was increased by £700, leaving many customers concerned about how they would pay their bills.
A Squeeze Team investigation by The Sun on Sunday in April urged customers to challenge bill increases after we heard complaints from a number of customers.
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In May, Martin Lewis warned that a third of customers had been overcharged due to unfair bill increases.
If you're concerned about bailiffs turning up on your front door over unpaid energy bills, we previously explained your rights.
Ofgem said that it had found "minor weaknesses" in the processes of Bulb, E.On, Octopus Energy, Outfox the Market, Ovo, Shell and Utility Warehouse.
While it found "no significant issues" with British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power and SO Energy.
Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem CEO, said: “We know how hard it is for energy customers at the moment so it’s crucial that the amount they pay each month in direct debits is right so they can manage their money.
"Suppliers must do all they can, especially during the current gas crisis, to support customers and to recognise the significant worry and concern increased direct debits can cause."
Ofgem's review found that over 7million customers on standard variable tariffs had direct debit bills increased between February and April 2022.
On average, bills went up by 62%, while 8% of households – around 500,000 customers – saw increases of more than 100%.
The regulator believes this is unfair and thinks that some firms processes for hiking bills were not as "robust" as they should be.
Will my direct debit be reviewed?
Ofgem has asked suppliers to review bills of customers who had direct debits increased by 100% or more between February 1 and April 30 2022.
It will adjust any errors and they must also consider a compensation payment if a customer has been left out of pocket.
How do you know if your direct debit is unfair?
Energy firms usually charge you for more than you use in the summer, so that you don't face big bills in winter when you turn your heating on.
If your energy firm has hiked your bill by 62% then this is deemed fair by Ofgem.
This is because of how much energy tariffs have jumped due to wholesale increases.
In April, the price cap for standard variable tariffs, went up 54% to £1,791.
In October it is estimated to rise to £3,245 according to current estimates.
If your bill went up by 100% during Feb and April then you should hear from your supplier.
How do you challenge an unfair direct debit hike?
If you think you're paying too much, firstly you need to submit a meter reading.
Ask your firm to review it and if you're not happy then complain to your energy provider.
Your supplier must clearly explain why it's chosen that amount for your direct debit.
If you've got credit on your account, you have every right to get it back – although some experts recommend keeping it there through the summer, so your bills don't go up in the winter when you use more energy.
Your supplier must refund you or explain exactly why not otherwise and the regulator, Ofgem, can fine them.
But you should also take regular meter readings to backup your claims.
A reading leaves no room for error either, as it shows precisely what you actually used.
If it's lower than your estimate, you can ask your provider to lower your monthly direct debit to a more suitable amount.
But beware that you don’t end up in debt later on with a bigger catch up bill at the end of the year from underpayments racking up.
If you're unhappy with your suppliers response – or you've been waiting more than eight weeks – then you can take it to the Energy Ombudsman to dispute it.
They will take a look into your case and rule whether it's unfair.
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