If you pay your energy bill by direct debit, it’s likely the amount you pay each month will be based upon an estimate of how much gas and electricity your energy supplier thinks you’ll use during that year.
If these estimates are too high, and you end up paying for more energy than you use, you will be ‘in-credit’ with your supplier, which means they will owe you money.
On the flipside, if you’re using more energy than you’re paying for, or you miss some monthly payments for any reason, you’ll end up in arrears, meaning you owe your energy provider money.
The simplest way to check whether you’re in credit is to check your energy bill. If you manage your account online, just log in to see your latest balance, if not, the same information should be shown on your latest paper energy bill.
If you’re in credit, you can ask for the cash back at any time and your supplier is obliged to refund it in full, unless it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to hold on to it. If your supplier refuses your request for a refund, and you don’t agree with its reasons for doing so, you can take your complaint to the energy ombudsman.
It’s worth noting that some suppliers will automatically refund your money, here is the current position of each of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies:
|Energy provider||Refund policy|
|British Gas||All customers in credit will get full refund, subject to meter reading, from later this year. Threshold reduced from £100 to £75 in the interim period.|
|EDF Energy||All customers in credit will get full refund, subject to meter reading.|
|E.ON||Will provide automatic refund if customer is £5 or more in credit, with accurate meter reading.|
|npower||Will refund customer in credit by £60 or more at annual review, based on actual meter readings. Alternatively, credit taken off next 12 months' direct debits.|
|Scottish Power||Will provide automatic refund if customer has more than three months' worth of direct debit payments at annual review.Also pays £1 on every £33 on credit balances of between £100 and £500, so sum of up to £12 is available.|
|SSE||Will issue automatic refunds to customers more than £5 credit at their annual review.|
It’s your money, so you’ve every right to claim it back – a word of warning though, your direct debit is worked out to cover a year’s worth of energy payments, so even if you’re significantly overpaying during the summer, this could easily balance itself out in the winter. And you don’t want to find yourself falling into debt, especially in winter and on the run up to Christmas.
So before you ask for a refund, weigh up whether or not you really need the money back right now and maybe discuss the situation with your supplier.
If you were in credit when you switched, there’s a chance your previous supplier owes you some money – although energy companies are meant to refund any in-credit balance when you switch to another provider, it doesn’t always work out that way.
If you suspect you may be owed money, check your old energy bills and bank statements to work out if you’re due any money back, and then give your previous supplier a call. Even if you don’t have any of this information to hand, but think you’re owed money, it’s still worth giving them a call.
For more information on the refund policies and procedures for each of the ‘Big Six’, go to My Energy Credit.
If you’re overpaying for your energy, providing your supplier with regular meter readings will help make your bills more accurate. This is also a good way to avoid underpaying and falling into debt.
If you’re simply paying too much because you’re using too much gas and electricity, check out our energy saving tips page, and see how you can lower your bills by cutting back on your energy usage.
And remember, one of the simplest ways to save money is to switch energy provider – enter your postcode on our energy switching page to see how much you can save.
If you’re in arrears with your energy provider and want to switch to another company, you’ll only be able to do so if you’ve owed money to your current supplier for 28 days or less. Anything you owe will then be added to your final bill.
You may also be able to switch supplier so long you owe less than £500 and any new provider agrees to take you on as a customer. If you owe more than £500, you’ll have to get this down to £500 before you can switch. And although this only usually applies if you’re on a prepayment meter, you may be able to switch if you’re on a standard meter – it’s a least worth asking the question.
Have you ever had money refunded from your energy supplier? Did you find the whole process relatively straightforward, or did your energy company make if difficult? Share your experience with our Twitter community.
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