Utility Direct Debits

  Dragon_Heart 11:03 15 Aug 2008

Do any of you ever check the amount you are being asked to pay gas and / or electric companies is reasonable ? By 'reasonable' I mean JUST enough to pay your yearly bills.

I thought you paid a regular amount each month over 12 months. In the Summer months you were in effect 'over paying' and in the Winter months 'under paying' but on average it evened things up.

Now I know wholesale prices for gas & electricity have been going through the roof lately but in our case in January they asked for a 35% increase in our monthly payment amount ( it was reduced to about 7% after I queried the increase and also got my MP involved ) now, 6 months later they want another 55% yet in the same week we get a letter to say our prices are fixed until the end of next year.

Did you know they also take your payments over 11 not 12 months ?

You begin to wonder if they are deliberately overcharging !

Lets say they ( the utility companies ) have 15,000,000 households on direct debit.

They 'overestimate' the payments by £3 per month and take the payment average over 11 months.

By my calculations that about £589,000,000+ they have in their bank account instead of ours.

  spuds 11:49 15 Aug 2008

I like to pay my bills on the knowledge that I have control of my finances, and not some utility or other company. Got stung once, so never again.

Regarding overcharging, I have had this twice in the last twelve months. The meter reader checked the usage and submitted the reading. Yet the company sent out higher over-estimated' bills (£49/£61 overcharge. Of course the usual apologies came into being, but really there was no real excuse of the actions by the utility company, other than incompetence and poor administration, and perhaps financial gain for themselves.

A neighbour of mine was recently talking about direct debit payment arrangements with her utility company. They sent her a letter/bill requesting further payments and higher monthly charges because "there had been a wrong calculation formula used". After questioning the letter, it was found that a rebate was due, she had actually overpaid the previous accounts, which I suppose came as a little bonus to her in the short term.

  jack 11:55 15 Aug 2008

Which is why I do not have DD's for utilities except for a water and ISP- they wont do it any other way.
30 years ago I had a run with BG because this overpaying lark and had a £60 credit build up
which I could not get them to do anything about- from then on- I pay on the Bill within 24 hours and that's it.
I'd sooner have the money in My account earning interest than theirs.

  Clapton is God 11:58 15 Aug 2008

"the meter reader checked the usage and submitted the reading".

What's a 'meter reader'?

My utility company expect me to do my own readings.

  Marko797 12:18 15 Aug 2008

well, I'm with EON on dual fuel, and recently had a wrangle with them as they sent me a bill saying, firstly, that my account was in debit to the tune of £500+. I ignored it thinking it was a mistake and would soon be rectified at their end. Wrong. This was followed by another bill the next quarter, advising account in debit to the tune of £1500!

I checked the readings on the bills (these were estimates by the way) against my actual meter readings. Result, they were widley out.

Turns out 'meter reading' is contracted out to some provider, who, seemingly, could not be a*s*d to do a physical check - something which he/she is being paid to do. Result; I get a massive bill and a high degree of anxiety.

It's all been sorted now, and my previous direct debit has been reduced, and that includes price protection thingy.

Lesson for me from all of this is to do a physical check of the meter readings yourself and compare this to what their bill tells you, as they aren't always correct.

  spuds 12:21 15 Aug 2008

Both the electricity and gas company provide meter readers in my area. If you are out, they usually leave a card which suggests a next day return visit to check for usage. You also have the option (via card) to phone-in readings or display the card convenient to the readers with latest usage details.

We have recently had the gas meter removed to an outside location, so I suppose we will have to be a little weary on when the meter is now being read and how the bill turns out!.

Regarding reading your own meters, I think that there is a law requiring the utility companies must check their meters personally every three years for possible discrepancies.

  spuds 12:33 15 Aug 2008

Regarding Eon, this was the same company who over estimated my bills. Siemens were/are the contracted meter readers for Eon. On submitting my complaints to Eon (who denied any responsibility),Siemens sent an area manager to my home with actual submitted (to Eon)computer print-outs. In both my cases of evidence shown, the faults of overcharging were with Eon.Strangely, the same area manager was making other visits to people raising the same concerns of overcharging and wrong billing!.

  lofty29 12:51 15 Aug 2008

This is just the reason I will not go to DD, when I inquired they wanted between 30-40% more than my bill over the year, yet another rip-off by the privatised utilities,when BG and the electric boards where in public ownership the DD system was much more realistic, and you got an automatic refund at the end of the year if you were in credit. This is something that the regulator should jump on severely, but no chance of that

  johndrew 13:48 15 Aug 2008

I pay all my utilities, Council Tax and broadband by DD. In most cases there are no problems at all other than a risk that the utility companies will under-estimate by not taking energy cost rises into consideration and ignoring the fact we have distinct seasons in the UK.

Recently I have only had the need to ask British Gas to raise the DD as each spring they lower it regardless of whether I`m actually in credit or not. From what I am able to judge there is no facility offered by any utility provider to `manage` your account online yourself. This would be very helpful if available because it would enable proper annual budgeting based on usage and price. Until that is available I find an e-mail to the Support area generally works and failing that to the Complaints Department copied to the Chief Executive. The latter never responds but the problem is always resolved.

For e-mail addresses look at the site details for the utility in question, some have a specific `contact us` facility that provides a record number for the input.

  medicine hat 14:09 15 Aug 2008

DD gives you the lowest tariffs, so to pay any other way ultimately costs you. My income is monthly so I like to pay my bills monthly. I recently phoned up BG and asked them to reduce my payments, having reviewed my last 4 bills. They did, no hassle. Considering how easy it is to change supplier, I dont understand why people put up with poor billing. BG estimates tend to be quite accurate for my home.

  jack 14:13 15 Aug 2008

Mine is weakly - very weak - OAP-
Still like for me to have it than some overbloated utility Co

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