Check to see whether the bill has been estimated; another cause of high bills. This is when a bill is calculated based commonly on an algorithm of past energy consumption, seasonal adjustments and the size of your home. Your supplier must clearly indicate on your bill if an estimated reading has been used. The abbreviation ‘E’ (‘estimated’) may be next to the meter reading figure. Actual readings (where the meter has been read), are shown by an ‘A’ (‘actual’). Customer readings are shown by a ‘C’ (‘customer’). However, suppliers may also use their own abbreviations, letters or symbols. Any letter or symbols used should be explained on the bill.
If practical, obtain your own reading if the bill is based on an estimated reading (see Appendix 2). Do this as soon as possible after receiving the estimated bill and make an allowance for units consumed since the date of the bill so that the comparison is as accurate as possible. You can calculate an average daily rate and deduct that amount for the appropriate number of days. Alternatively, to decide if an estimate is unreasonable, compare the amount of fuel used over the same period in the previous year with the estimated consumption on the present bill. If a bill covering the same period is not available (eg, because you have recently moved), try making a reasonable estimate using any bill you do have, or by calculating how much would be used by the appliances you have and the frequency with which you use them. Your supplier must provide you with an explanation of how your bill has been derived in plain and intelligible language if you so request.1Condition 21B.7 SLC
If you do not think the estimate is accurate, notify the supplier. Call the number on the bill, or record your own meter reading on the back of the bill and ask for a more accurate bill to be reissued later. An accurate bill is not likely to be reissued immediately after you provide your supplier with a meter reading as bills are produced in accordance with your agreed billing schedule with your supplier. However, you can request that your supplier reissue you an accurate bill.
If you have established a discrepancy in the bill and are able to, pay the amount claimed on the bill and the supplier should work out the difference it owes you. Back up a telephone request by email or letter, keeping a copy. If your own reading shows that the bill is an overestimate, the supplier must take all reasonable steps to reflect your meter reading in your new bill – in line with SLC 21B.
However, remember that if a bill has been underestimated, a higher bill will result from any complaint. It is still important to obtain an accurate bill from your supplier which reflects your actual usage so that you can start addressing the bill promptly. If you are worried that receiving a higher bill will cause you financial hardship, see Chapter 7. Also, be aware of cases where a high bill is the result of a low estimate on a past bill followed by an accurate meter reading later. This is one of the most common reasons for an extraordinarily high bill: several quarters’ bills are significantly underestimated, followed by an actual meter reading by the supplier which brings the account back up to date. This results in a large back-bill, consolidating the usage not paid for in the previously low estimated bills. For this reason, it is crucial to give an accurate reading yourself whenever you receive an estimated bill. The points made about billing delays on here also apply here.