Figures obtained by the BBC reveal that Britain’s energy firms are holding onto nearly £4bn of their customers’ money. Radio 4’s You & Yours programme, investigated and found out that some domestic energy accounts are thousands of pounds in credit. If homeowners request a refund, then the energy suppliers are obliged to pay back any surplus. However, they are under no obligation to tell their customers if their credit becomes excessive. Many customers are often in debt during the winter and build up credit during the summer. Direct debit energy payments are there to spread the cost of gas and electricity evenly across the year. A typical customer’s credit balance peaks at a little over £100 each year, this was previously calculated by Ofgem.
“I was quite annoyed that the supplier had not bothered to contact me. If I’d have owed them £3,000, would they have been so tardy in contacting me? I can’t believe that companies are so incompetent that they don’t know what’s going on,” said David Flanagan, from Warrington, after finding out that his energy supplier owed him
Tom Colvin, who lives alone in a two-bedroom flat and pays for his energy through a regular payment plan. He found that his energy account was £2,000 in credit. When he asked for a refund, his energy supplier agreed to pay it back immediately. “They seemed to imply that despite regular meter readings they haven’t been able to address what I should be paying. Over a period of two and a half years it should be possible to calculate my actual usage and then make a sensible calculation based on that,” he said.
In October 2015, the UK’s energy suppliers held a total of £3.98bn of credit on their customers’ accounts- these figured were obtained from energy regulator Ofgem through a freedom of information request. At the time when these figures were obtain, there were nearly 31 million energy customers in the UK, but the credit is not evenly spread among the customers. The energy regulator Ofgem, said people should keep an eye on their account, and ask for a refund if they feel that their credit is too high.
Some energy suppliers provide annual automatic refunds. British Gas, EDF, Npower, SSE and E.On told You & Yours they automatically returned credits each year, if meter readings were up to date, as did Ovo, Green Star Energy and Flow. First Utility said they provided refunds on request.