2. Accuracy of the bill
Always check that the supplier has calculated your bill correctly. If the units consumed are correctly recorded, check that the cost has been correctly calculated.
If disconnection or prepayment meter installation is threatened; but you think the bill is inaccurate, tell the supplier immediately. A supplier cannot disconnect or install a prepayment meter in respect of part of a bill that is genuinely in dispute.1Sch 6 para 2(1) EA 1989; Sch 2B para 7 GA 1986 However, you cannot avoid paying for gas or electricity used simply on the basis of a mistake resulting in an inaccurate bill – the supplier has the legal right to make you pay for what you have used, even if it initially made an error on the bill.2Maritime Electric Co Ltd v General Dairies Ltd  AC 610 In particular, you should take steps to pay for that part of the electricity bill that you do not dispute, or you could be disconnected for that alone. If you cannot afford to pay the amount you agree you owe in full, set up a payment plan to demonstrate that you are willing to pay for what you have used (see Chapter 7). If you experience difficulty in dealing with a supplier, particularly if staff at call centres are unable to help, be prepared to raise a formal complaint. This will usually result in reaching a more senior member of staff to deal with the issue. If you are ‘vulnerable’, request that your account be considered and handled by a specialist team or member of staff. Suppliers are obliged under their standards of conduct that you are treated fairly3Condition 0.1 SLC and their actions are honest and transparent.4Condition 0.3 SLC In addition to the statutory requirements set out in SLC 31H, which have raised the bar considerably in terms of the amount of information suppliers must provide on bills, most suppliers5Members are: British Gas (including Scottish Gas), E.ON, EDF Energy, npower, ScottishPower and SSE. are also committed to the Energy UK’s Code of Practice for Accurate Bills (the ‘Billing Code’),6Energy UK, Code of Practice for Accurate Bills, at which sets out minimum standards you can expect from your supplier. These are a number of voluntary commitments made by member suppliers to provide increased safeguards and higher standards of service with regards to bills. The code sets out the minimum standards members must follow and their responsibilities to ensure accurate and clear bills. Members are rigorously audited annually to ensure compliance.
The commitments include:
•bills and statements that are clear, accurate, useful and on time;
•advice on checking energy use;
•obtaining and recording the most up-to-date and accurate meter reading;
•enable smooth switching of energy supplier;
•any payments are set at the right level.
Suppliers are obliged to facilitate and develop your understanding of bills, tariff, cost and energy consumption. Bills and statements of accounts must be provided to you in a form suitable to you (such as paper, app or online), for you to readily retain or have access to for ease of reference.7Condition 31H.3 SLC Additional to the duty to provide bills and statements of accounts, suppliers are obliged to provide you with the following billing information at least once a year or at key prompt points, appropriate to your circumstances:
•any charges, fees or payments debited or credited from your account;
•detailed breakdown of charges, fees or payments;
•when and how you must make payment;
•when and how you will have payments deducted, with reasonable time afforded to arrange payment prior to its due date;
•any expected changes to your product and when this is due;
•whether or not the price is guaranteed until a given date.8Condition 31H.1 SLC and 31H.12 SLC Since 1 May 2018, suppliers are prohibited from sending you a retrospective bill (back-bill), or otherwise recover and reconcile fuel arrears, which dates back for more than 12 months.9Condition 21BA.1 SLC These back-bills result from a supplier’s failure to undertake an actual meter reading or problems with a supplier’s billing system and only sending you a bill once an accurate meter reading is taken. This is subject to certain exceptions and does not apply if you have been obstructive or manifestly unreasonable, such as preventing a supplier from taking or receiving accurate meter readings, including obstructing access to the meter or tampering with the meter.10Condition 21BA.2 SLC
You must also be able to show that you have made a reasonable attempt to contact a supplier to make or arrange payment either in full or by way of an instalment.
Where a supplier issues a bill which is contrary to the back-billing licence conditions, it should credit your account with the value of the unbilled energy consumed over 12 months ago, taking into consideration any payments already made by you or credits applied to the account, so that you are not required to pay any additional sums towards this previously unbilled energy consumption. Refusing to do so may suggest non-compliance with SLC 21BA and give rise to a regulatory complaint to Ofgem. Initially, a formal complaint should be raised with the supplier upon receipt of an erroneous back-bill. If this does not result in a remedy, you can complain further to the Energy Ombudsman (see Chapter 14).