Understanding your gas and electricity bills
Energy bills are often criticised for being too complicated, but rather than simply filing them away because you don't understand them, you should always read them carefully to ensure that you aren't paying over the odds.
There are several bits of information every energy bill will show.
Every customer has a reference or account number, and this is vital if you have a query with your bill and want to speak to your energy supplier about it.
There will be a bill period on the statement, which shows the dates your bill relates to. The bill will also include information showing the last payment you made, as well as how much you are expected to pay for the latest billing period. This figure is usually shown with VAT excluded, with the amount of VAT you owe given below. There will then be a total figure that you will need to pay, which includes VAT.
Your bill will also include detailed breakdown of your energy usage. This will include the kilowatt hours (kWh) used, the cost per kilowatt hour and your latest meter readings. If there is an 'e' shown next to the meter reading, this will indicate that the reading is estimated rather than actual. Additional charges (such as standing orders) and discounts are then outlined before the total amount due is shown.
You should pay this amount as soon as possible. If you don't pay by direct debit, then a payment slip will be included at the bottom of the bill.
Why not check out our video that explains more about the infomation you can find on an energy bill, how you can take your meter reading and how you can save money on your energy bill.
Your energy bill broken down
Below are two images showing the front and back of a typical bill.
- Account number: This is used to identify who you are and your bill details.
- Bill Summary: This highlights the date range (usually 3 months) that the current charges cover. It usually shows the amount of your last bill as well.
- Total payment due: After all charges have been added plus VAT and discounts taken away, this is the total amount you owe for the billing period.
- Date and package information: This is the date that your bill was issued and the name of your tariff.
- Contact information: If you have any bill related queries, here you will find the contact details for your supplier.
- Electricity supply number: The MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) is usually situated on the front of your bill.
- Message panel: The message panel will give details of possible money saving promotions or new tariffs.
- Payments made: Outlines your recent payments and the dates they were made.
- Energy you have used: This will give you the cost of the total gas and electricity you have used. A detailed breakdown will be given on the back of your bill.
- Total charges: This is the amount payable minus any discounts that your tariff may offer you.
- Meter point reference number (MPRN): This is your gas meter number and is usually situated on the reverse of your bill.
- Gas emergency details - If you have a gas related emergency such as a gas leak or loss of supply then this will give you details of who to contact.
- Electricity emergency details - If you had an electricity-related emergency such as a power cut then the details of who to contact would be here.
- Minicom service: This wil give the phone number for those customers who are hard of hearing.
- Calculating your energy charges - This will break down exactly how many units of gas and electricity you have used and what the charges are for each.
- Code of practice/priority service: Details of additional services including customer complaints, special needs, prepayments, visits and more.
- Complaints service: If you are unhappy with the service provided by your energy supplier then here you will be give the complaints number to call. Furthermore if you feel a complaint has gone unresolved then contact details for Consumer Focus will also appear here.
What to do if your bill is higher than expected
Receiving an energy bill which is much higher than you anticipated can be a nasty shock. However, there may be several reasons why your bill is higher than you expected - we explain what they are:
Your meter readings have been estimated
If your gas or electricity supplier has based its bill on an estimated meter reading, rather than an actual reading then the chances are they may have over or under-estimated how much energy you've used.
You can tell is if the reading is estimated because it will usually have an 'e' next to it. To make sure you pay the correct amount, take a meter reading yourself and notify your gas or electricity supplier so they can send you a revised bill.
You have used more energy than usual
Think carefully about your energy usage and whether this has changed recently, prompting a higher bill. Perhaps there might have been a bout of freezing weather which has meant the heating has been on more than usual, or you've had people to stay and have used more hot water than you might have normally.
New appliances can also have an impact on your bills, so if you've bought new electrical items recently and used them a lot, this could have contributed towards steeper bills.
Your tariff has expired
One reason gas and electricity bills can suddenly increase is because your current energy tariff has expired. You may, for example, have locked into a fixed rate tariff some time ago, and have been protected from energy price increases.
But when this comes to an end, bills can shoot up, so it's always worth making a note of when your current deal is due to end.
Whatever the reason your energy bills have increased, if you are struggling to pay, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible to arrange a manageable repayment plan.
You should also take steps to reduce your bills as soon as possible. You can compare tariffs online through MoneySupermarket's energy channel to find the best deals, so if you find a cheaper quote you should switch as soon as possible.