As winter arrives in full force, you’ve probably already made a couple of trips to the thermostat to crank the heating up and keep the chill off. And, although the gas you use to heat your house isn’t cheap, it’s the cost of doing business when it’s cold and frosty outside, right? Well, almost. There are millions of people across the UK that are overpaying on their gas bills every year. And not just by a tenner here and there, either. Over 11 million households could be due an average refund of £117 because they were overcharged on their gas bills. Which means that – across the UK – people have paid overpaid on their gas bills by a total of £1.3 billion.
Because a £1.3 billion is such a large number, it helps to put it in context; with the amount that UK households overpaid on their gas bills in the last year alone, you’d be able to buy a few private jets, a football club (or two), the entirety of Kensington Palace Gardens and still have enough spare change to live comfortably for the rest of life. Pretty crazy, huh?
How is it possible to overpay your gas bills?
Well, it’s because gas companies often estimate your usage when they send out your bill. Unless you’ve given them a meter reading (more on that later) then they’ll take an educated guess at how much you’ve used over the year and charge you for that. Sometimes, they’re close to the mark. Other times, they’ll miss by quite a distance. And that’s when it costs you money. This often raises questions about the accuracy, methods and reliability of the gas companies’ estimates. And that’s why we’ve put together this guide.
How to check if you’ve overpaid your gas bills and what to do about it:
Check your meter readings
Grab your gas bill and check your supplier’s estimate of your gas usage against your actual meter readings – if the supplier has overestimated how much you’ve used, then you’ve overpaid.
Now, you’ve got two options here:
If you’ve overpaid by a little – and it’s the end of summer – then it makes sense to keep this credit as you’re probably going to overspend a little in the colder months. Over the course of a year, these periods of overpayment and overspending usually balance each other out.
However, if you’re one of the 11 million people who have had their estimate completely miss the mark, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your money back.
Get a refund on your gas bills :
Usually, getting a refund for something – especially if it requires a phone call – is a complete pain. You’ll have hours of navigating through an automated if-you-need-an-operator-press-9-then-7-then-4 system before you get passed through four different departments, all of which can’t process your refund.
But, an Ofgem investigation discovered that – especially if your gas is provided by a Big 6 energy company – it’s never been easier to get a refund. Just pick up the phone, ask for a refund and they’ll process it right there and then.
Once you’ve called (or, in rare circumstances, written), you’ll get a refund for the full amount within a few months. Refunds will either be via cheque or direct transfer into your account.
Bamboo Tip: Avoid calling at the busiest times to dodge these delays. Mondays, lunchtimes, 8.30am-9am, when people get home from work and the beginning and end of the month are usually peak times for call centres, so try and avoid these if you can.
What if they don’t listen?
Once you’ve requested a refund, your provider has eight weeks to resolve it.
Note: resolve means approve or reject the refund, not necessarily give you the money.
If after eight weeks they haven’t resolved your request, you can complain for free to the Independent Energy Ombudsman. They’ll look at your case and investigate on your behalf – if they rule that you are due a refund, they’ll demand that your provider pay it within 28 days.
And that’s all there is to it – just check, call and ask for your money back! You can also claim money back on older gas bills – but that’s a slightly more complex process: the Money Saving Expert has a pretty comprehensive guide if you think you’ve overpaid in the past.