Energy firms have been asked to clearly explain how they calculate bills after concerns were raised that customers may have been overcharged after price rises.
The energy regulator Ofgem has written to the big six utility companies after being passed a number of customer complaints by The Times newspaper which allege suppliers billed for units used before price hikes at post-increase rates.
A number of Times readers complained that when they provided meter readings after paying an estimated bill, any additional units used were charged at the higher rate.
An Ofgem spokesman told the Times: “We have written to suppliers yesterday asking each of them to provide details of the approach they take to apportioning price increases and an explanation of the checks they employ to ensure accuracy.”
“We also want to understand the way in which estimated and actual bills are reconciled.
“We want suppliers to explain what mechanisms they use when prices are raised to ensure that consumers pay the higher price only for units consumed following the price increase,”
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said: “It’s good that Ofgem are looking to tackle this, but the main problem is that energy tariffs and billing are so complex it’s often impossible for customers themselves to work out what they should be paying.
“If energy companies were forced to offer simpler tariffs it would be much easier for consumers to work out if they are paying the right price. That might even help the companies regain some consumer trust.”
The news comes in the same week that npower became the fifth of the big six suppliers to announce price rises.
Which? advised consumers to submit meter readings to their energy company on the day price rises are introduced to avoid units used before the hike being charged at the higher rate.
Ministers were under pressure last night to ease the burden of hidden green charges on soaring fuel bills.
According to energy regulator Ofgem, the UK’s climate change policies add £100 – or nearly 10 per cent – to a typical household fuel bill.
Consumer groups and MPs say all energy suppliers should be forced to reveal on bills how much hard-pressed families are forced to pay to subsidise green energy and end Britain’s dependence on dirty coal, oil and gas.
Benny Peiser, director of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, called for hidden climate change levies to be slashed. He said: ‘If Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has his way, Britons will be forced to subsidise renewable energy by approximately £100billion in the next 20 years.
‘Electricity prices are likely to double as a direct result. Enough is enough.
‘The Government has to force energy companies to make electricity bills fully transparent so that the ever-increasing level of hidden green taxes are clearly listed for families and households.
‘The Government should now consider a complete moratorium on green energy legislation that threatens to impose huge additional costs on all those who are already facing spiralling power bills.’