If you pay your energy bills by direct debit, the amount you pay will usually be based on an estimate of the amount of energy you will use over a year. If you use more energy than the supplier estimates, you may find that your monthly direct debit payment is increased.
This page explains your rights and options if your energy supplier increases your direct debit payments.
To avoid under-paying for energy and facing large increases in your direct debit payments, make sure you always check your estimated bills against actual meter readings.
Submit a meter reading regularly, so that your direct debit payment is based on what energy you use rather than estimated readings.
Let your supplier know if something happens that means you'll use more or less energy than usual. For example, children leaving home or having loft insulation fitted. This will mean they can adjust your payments accordingly.
When can your energy supplier increase your direct debit payments?
Some suppliers review their customers’ direct debit payments twice a year, comparing their estimated consumption against the actual meter readings. At a minimum, suppliers should review your payments and consumption every 15 months.
The actual meter readings or review process may show that you have been paying for less energy than you have actually used. Your supplier can then increase your direct debit payments to cover both the debt that you have built up and your future usage.
Jenny’s monthly direct debit for gas and electricity was set at £70. Her supplier checked this against the amount of energy she really used and found that it had been set too low. Jenny owed £300 in arrears.
The supplier estimated that Jenny was actually using £90 of energy a month. They re-set her direct debit payments to £120, which covered her higher usage and payments towards the arrears. When the debt was repaid, and Jenny's actual usage stayed the same, the supplier then reduced her payments down to £90 again.
Under the rules of the Direct Debit Guarantee, you should be told of the change at least ten working days before the money is taken from your account. If you are not told in writing or on your bill, you can complain and ask for compensation from your bank.
If you disagree with the increase
If you disagree with the increased direct debit payment amount, you can challenge it. You should ask your supplier to justify the amount that they have calculated. Your supplier has to explain clearly to you how they have reached the figure they want to charge.
When you look at the calculation, check it against your actual meter readings. Remember that your consumption will be higher in the winter months. Also bear in mind that changes in your household, such as a new baby or someone working from home, will mean your consumption is likely to increase.
If you are still not happy with your supplier’s calculation, you should ask them for a lower payment. If you are unhappy with their response, you can make a complaint.