Pensioner overcharged hundreds of pounds as rates billed wrong way round

A pensioner was overcharged hundreds of pounds for her energy bills as her supplier was charging the higher day rate and the lower off-peak rate the wrong way round.

Neil Cowan, from Blythe, appeared on BBC One’s Rip Off Britain, to share his story about how his mum, who has since died, was overcharged over several weeks.

She moved into a property in early February and was on an Economy 7 tariff with E.ON Next, with a higher day rate and a lower night rate.

The idea of the tariff is for consumers to use appliances during off-peak times so they can get a cheaper rate for their energy.

Neil’s mum was on a day rate of 43p a unit and a night rate of less than half this amount, at 15p a unit.

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The property was heated by electric storage heaters which would automatically come on at night, to make the most of the cheaper rate.

Neil checked his mum’s bills for one week and was shocked to realise she had been charged the two tariffs the wrong way round, paying the higher rate for her off-peak usage.

He worked out she should have been charged £205.50 but instead she received a bill for £360.

He contacted E.ON Next to query the bill and spent the next nine weeks, even after his mum died, calling the supplier and sending them emails with photos, to show the error.

But she continued to receive overcharged bills during this time, which ranged from £360 to £780. Neil said: “It’s a big mistake and it generated a horrendous bill.”

E.ON Next has since resolved the issue and apologised for the error. They confirmed Neil’s calculations were correct and they agreed to clear the account and credit it back to zero.

If eight weeks have passed since a consumer has made a complaint to their supplier and the issue has still not been resolved, they can escalate the case to the Energy Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman can make a supplier correct a problem, give compensation and explain what caused the issue.

Many Britons will see their energy bills drop from July as Ofgem announced this week its price cap will be reduced.

A typical household currently pays on average £2,500 a month. The Ofgem price cap is at present higher than this but the Government’s energy price guarantee limits average bills at £2,500 a year.

But the Ofgem price cap will now fall below this from the start of July, with average bills to drop to £2,074 a year.

Analysts have warned Britons will still face huge pressure on their finances even as energy bills go down.

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London, said: “Energy prices are finally falling, but cost pressures continue to bubble elsewhere in the economy.

“Families are still grappling with an enormous spike in food prices, and interest rates may rise again in the months ahead. The cost of living crisis is by no means over.”

Energy bills went up in April when the instalments from the £400 energy bills discount came to an end.

Many other household bills also increased from April, including council tax, mobile and broadband, and water bills.

Rip Off Britain is available to view on BBC iPlayer.

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