Are you due a share of £400m energy refund?

The UK’s Big Six energy firms have been ordered to pay out refunds totalling more than £400million to short-changed customers.

Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, says the amount of money the suppliers have accrued from credit left in 3.5million domestic and 300,000 business accounts after they were closed is “unacceptably large”.

It’s now calling on British Gas, Scottish Power, E.On, EDF Energy, SSE and Npower to hand the money back to its rightful owners. So, are you in line for a refund? And how do you get yours? Read on to find out.

Undermining confidence

Ofgem is concerned that not giving customers their money back undermines consumer confidence and might discourage us from switching to the best deals. It’s urging the Big Six to do all they can to return the money to individual consumers and to start telling customers more clearly what to do when closing their accounts.

Where money cannot be returned to individuals, Ofgem expects suppliers to use the money to benefit their customers more widely. It’s advising anyone who thinks they may still be owed money from a previous supplier to contact the company directly to ask for it back.

£202million is being held as credit in 3.5million domestic accounts – which equates to an average refund amount of around £58 per household. A further £204million is held as credit in 300,000 old business accounts – which results in an average refund amount of £680.

Clare Francis, editor-in-chief of MoneySuperMarket, said: “The revelation by Ofgem, that energy providers have held onto more than £400m of former customers’ money is outrageous. It’s little surprise that there is so little trust in the industry when things like this come to light. Before an individual can close an energy account and move to a new provider, they must pay off any money they owe to their existing provider, yet shockingly providers haven’t necessarily been doing the same thing if they owe the customer money.

“It is therefore good news to see the regulator clamping down on this practice and calling on energy firms to return any money they have retained from former customers. Where a customer cannot be traced, we would suggest setting up a fund, similar to the Unclaimed Assets Fund for Banks and Building Societies, where this money can be used for social good, for example helping to tackle fuel poverty which has become a growing problem in the UK.”

‘Struggling to make ends meet’

Andrew Wright, interim chief executive of Ofgem, said: “When many people are struggling to make ends meet, it is vital that energy companies do the right thing and do all they can to return this money and restore consumer trust.”

“We want to see decisive action by suppliers, individually and collectively, to address this issue and, wherever possible, to ensure that the balances they currently hold are returned to consumers. Where this can’t be done any remaining sums should be used to benefit consumers more generally, and suppliers need to be very clear with consumers about what they will be doing with this money.”

Get in touch

Energy UK, an organisation which represents the energy industry, said customers need to inquire about refunds, as it can be difficult for suppliers to track down former customers.

It said: “Energy companies try and make sure individual customers’ money gets back to its rightful owners. However, more commonly energy companies are owed many times more money by people who leave unpaid debts behind them.”

“Although companies are working to return money where there are credit balances sometimes former domestic customers provide no new contact details so suppliers don’t know how, or to whom, they can return the money. The most common reasons energy companies end up holding funds are when the bill payer has moved home or when a customer dies and suppliers have no record of the next of kin.
 
“Suppliers already agreed with Ministers last year that they would take all reasonable steps to trace customers who leave a credit balance behind. But we need your help to do more. Firms can’t even begin to return lost money if they don’t have up to date contact details and an accurate final meter reading.  If you think you may be owed money, get in touch with your supplier past and present, to check if they have funds to return to you.”

Here are the numbers you’ll need to find out if you’re due a refund:

British Gas

0800 048 0202

EDF Energy

0800 096 9000

EON

0333 202 4856

Npower

0800 316 3375

Scottish Power

0800 027 0072 (from landlines) or 0345 270 0700 (from mobiles)

SSE

0800 975 1662

To compare energy tariffs and switch to a more competitive deal, visit our energy channel.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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* Up to 20% can save at least £276.98. MoneySuperMarket data based on sales Dec 2013

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