If your energy supplier has increased your direct debit payments

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you pay for your gas or electricity by direct debit, the payments will usually be based on an estimate of the amount of energy you’ll use over a year. Your payments will increase if you use more energy than the supplier has estimated.

Your supplier might increase your direct debit payments to pay for energy you used in the past. This is known as ‘back billing’. 

If you used the energy over 12 months ago, your supplier can't usually charge you for it. 

Check what to do if your supplier has increased your direct debit to pay for energy you used in the past.

Your supplier has to let you know about a payment increase before it happens - this is known as the 'direct debit guarantee'. If they don’t, you should complain to your supplier.

If the increased payments mean you’re struggling to pay, you should talk to your supplier about a payment plan.


Your monthly direct debit for gas and electricity is set at £70. Your supplier checks this against the amount of energy you actually use and finds that it has been set too low. You owe £300 in arrears.

Your supplier estimates that you actually use £90 of energy a month. They raise your direct debit payments to £120, which covers your higher usage and paying off the arrears. When the debt is repaid, your supplier reduces your payments to £90.


Submit meter readings

It's important you send monthly meter readings. This will help your supplier set your direct debit payments at the right level. You'll then be less likely to owe them extra money. Check how to read your meter.

Get your supplier to explain the increase

You can challenge the increased direct debit payment amount with your supplier if you disagree with it.

Ask your supplier to justify how they calculated the new amount. They must explain clearly how they reached the figure they want to charge, and give you the meter readings they used.

When you look at the meter readings, check them against the meter readings on your bill to see if they are the same. Remember that your usage will be higher in the winter months.

If you think you’ve been overcharged

You might want to try to claim back money from your supplier if you've paid too much.

If you’re still not happy

If you’re still not happy with your supplier’s calculation, ask your supplier to lower your monthly payments to more accurately reflect your energy use.  

If they won't lower your payments to reflect your usage, you should make a formal complaint to your supplier.

Only pay for the energy you use each month

You might be able to make 'variable direct debit payments' instead of paying the same each month. This means you’ll usually have lower bills in the summer and higher bills in the winter.

Check if your energy supplier offers variable direct debit payments - if they don't you could switch energy supplier.

If you change to a variable direct debit payment and you don’t have a smart meter, you’ll need to send monthly meter readings to your energy supplier.

If you're struggling to pay

There are steps you should take if you're struggling to pay your energy bills to make sure you don't end up in debt. Check what to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills.

You might be able to get extra help from the government or your energy supplier. Check if you can get grants and benefits to help pay your energy bills.

If you’re struggling with living costs

If you’re struggling with money, there are things you can do to save on your regular living costs. Check what to do if you need help with living costs.

If you’re finding it hard to pay your bills, you can get help. Find out more about getting help with your bills.

You can also get help with debts.

If you're struggling to pay for food, find out how to get help from a food bank.

Further help

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need more help - a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone, online chat or by email.

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