Martin Lewis has issued a warning that many households with direct debit energy bills could be being mistreated by energy companies.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, money saving expert Martin Lewis reported that energy regulator Ofgem has ordered energy firms to improve how they set direct debits. He explained that while direct debit will have gone up following the energy price cap increase, 8 per cent of people have seen their energy bill direct debits more than double since April.
‘One of the biggest questions that we get in this slot is that people are very upset and angry that there direct debit energy bills has been put up by way more than the price cap. In some cases more than double,’ Martin told presenters Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary.
Martin Lewis has been working on a campaign to address the issue. Five minutes before going on This Morning, he said that he had received a reply from Ofgem about what was going to happen.
‘So they found that about 8 per cent of people, 500,000 people, have seen direct debits more than double and they’ve been looking at whether that is right or wrong in those circumstances,’ says Martin.
The Ofgem report found evidence that some energy suppliers’ processes are ‘not as robust as they could be’, and this has allowed for ‘inconsistent, incorrect or poor treatment for customers’.
Which energy companies are affected?
The report investigated 17 large suppliers. It announced that there is going to be enforcement action for TruEnergy which was identified as having major issues. Four more suppliers including Ecotricity, Good Energy, Green Enerfy UK and Utilita Energy were found to have ‘moderate or sever’ weakness.
Bigger companies such as Bulb, E.on, Octopus Energy, Outfox the Market, Ovo, Shell and Utility Warehouse were all found to have ‘minor weaknesses’.
British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power and So Energy were all found to have ‘no significant issues’.
How to know if you are over paying on direct debit energy bills
Martin Lewis explained that for many people direct debit energy bills will have gone up following the price cap increase by 54 per cent in April. However, energy companies are going to be asked to review every direct debit that’s gone up by more than 100%. So if you’ve been trying to save on energy bills, and wondering why your electricity bill is so high it is worth taking note.
‘If that has happened to you, the company should be reviewing it to check whether it was appropriate or not,’ explains Martin Lewis.
‘Now there are reasons it might have gone up by double, if you came off a fix that was very cheap and you went on to the price cap; if you were moving to a fixed tariff that was more expensive or if you’re in debt, those are reasons it might have gone up by 100 % or more.’
‘But there are many people who don’t fall into any of those categories who have seen it go up by more than double, and I’ve been involved in the campaign to try and improve that.’
If you do believe that your direct debit is incorrect Martin points out that you have every right to challenge it. The best course of action is to take an up-to-date meter reading which you can then submit to your supplier and ask them to justify the rise. If they can’t do that you can request that it is lowered. If the supplier refuses you should make a formal complaint with the Energy Ombudsman.
Experts, including Martin Lewis, are predicting another energy price cap increase of 65% in October. So if you do thing you’re overpaying by direct debit act now.