Quarter of households 'have received incorrect energy bills'

25% of households have received an incorrect energy bill in the last two years, according to uSwitch.com - meaning they either paid too much or fell into debt because they had unknowingly paid too little.

14% of respondents to the survey said this has happened to them more than once. And for the sixth year running, energy companies were voted one of the biggest culprits for getting bills wrong.

The problem is often caused by the way energy bills work. Customers who pay by fixed Direct Debit pay for their predicted usage - but if they use more energy than expected, or if prices increase, they may end up not paying enough.

On top of that, billpayers who don't provide regular meter readings usually receive an 'estimated' bill. If a future meter reading reveals they've used more energy than they've paid for, the energy company will expect the arrears to be repaid alongside their usual monthly payments.

An expert at debt management company Gregory Pennington said: "Incorrect bills can often be avoided by providing your energy supplier with regular meter readings. It's worth doing this around once a month and asking your provider whether your monthly payments cover your usage.

"It may also be an idea to pay a little more than necessary each month - say, £5 - to help protect against unexpected increases. If prices don't increase, this will simply build up a credit on the billpayer's account, which can be claimed back as a lump sum.

"Another option is to ask your energy provider to charge you for your exact usage this month. This may mean your payments go up and down from month to month - and may be a lot higher in the winter - but you'll at least know that you're paying for only what you use.

"Of course, there are instances in which the bill is simply incorrect. If you have any reason to believe this is the case, you should get in touch with your energy provider as soon as possible to try and resolve the issue."

Joel Stanier

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