LYING awake at night, Susan Whitehead can’t stop worrying about the extra £153 a month she needs to pay on her energy bills.
Ovo Energy told her in June that her direct debit would be going up by hundreds of pounds a month because she had fallen into debt.
She was told she owed £1,905 on her energy bills, and that her monthly direct debit would increase from £130 to £381 a month.
But little did Sue know that the massive increase was down to a smart meter error.
A technical fault meant the readings were much higher than what they actually were.
Unaware of the billing blunder, NHS worker Susan, 65, from Chepstow, paid this higher bill for a couple of months, but was struggling to make ends meet.
“There’s no way I could continue to afford this unless I stopped eating,” 她说.
“It’s inconceivable for me – it’s an amount I am not able to pay.”
She told Ovo Energy she couldn’t afford the hike, and the supplier told her that her monthly payments would be reviewed.
Sue was told earlier this month that her direct debit would go down to £283 a month instead.
But that still means she’s paying £153 a month more for her 能源账单 than she was before the hikes began.
She still owes £1,510 to Ovo Energy as well.
Susan, who is a widow and has three grandchildren, told The Sun she was terrified about how she’ll afford to pay this off.
After her husband died in November last year, she’s found herself falling behind on her bills sometimes.
She had to borrow money from her brother earlier this year to pay her 抵押.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had to borrow money in my life,” Susan said.
“I was in such a bad financial state, that I had to use a food bank.”
“I’m on my own with no partner, which is scary.
“It means I have no reserves to fall back on. Any savings I have behind me now goes on my bills – I don’t have a lot of luxuries now.”
Susan said she is petrified for the winter, when bills are expected to soar.
Although the price cap will be frozen at £2,500 under the Energy Price Guarantee, that’s still an extra £529 a month millions of households will have to fork out for their bills.
“Birthday presents for the grandchildren and my children will have to go,” 她说.
“I’ll be more or less on the breadline.”
The Sun contacted Ovo Energy on Susan’s behalf, and after investigating her case, the firm said a billing error had occurred.
Susan had a smart meter installed in January this year, but Ovo Energy believes the meter was logging higher readings than it should have been because of a technical issue.
Ovo Energy has knocked a total of £1,007 off her debt, which means she now owes £510.
It has confirmed that Susan’s direct debit will be set at £148 – which includes debt repayments.
An Ovo Energy spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to Ms Whitehead for the confusion caused around her direct debit.
“We have worked with her to reduce the debit on her account and refigure her payment plan so that it works for her.”
How to tackle energy bill blunders
If you’ve been sent an incorrect bill, then contact the energy supplier who sent it to you straight away, Hargreaves Lansdown senior personal finance analyst Sarah Coles said.
“These sorts of billing mistakes are incredibly stressful, but you need to deal with them, because if the energy supplier genuinely believe you owe them money, they will start pursuing it, and it can get even more expensive and complicated.”
Anything from account mix-ups, faulty meters and IT errors could mean you’re being overcharged.
If the problem is not corrected, then you should make a formal complaint to them.
If this still doesn’t work, contact the Energy Ombudsman.
They handle issues between customers and suppliers and will look at your case to see if they can help you deal with the complaint.
You’ll get help with resolving issues on billing, installations and delays, loss of service, customer service, and switching suppliers.
How to get help with your energy bills
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, it is best to first call up your supplier to discuss your options as you may be entitled to a cash grant.
These can be worth up to £1,500, and those on the lowest incomes and facing financial hardship can get the most help.
Ask your supplier what’s on offer and how to apply, or check here:
- Bulb energy fund
- EDF’s energy customer support fund
- E.on’s energy fund
- Npower’s energy fund
- Octopus Energy Octo Assist fund
- Ovo’s debt and energy assistance
- Scottish Power’s hardship fund
From October the first, all households will start to receive a £400 energy bill discount.
The payment will be dished out by your energy supplier and will be split across six discounts between October and March next year.
Households will receive a £66 energy bill discount in October and November and a discount worth £67 in December, 一月, February and March.
Millions of households are in line to get a £150 discount off their energy bills between December and March 2023.
The Department for Work and Pensions, who’s overseeing the scheme, will send you letter in October to confirm if you’ll get the payment later on in the year.
Payments will likely begin from December.
Local councils are giving out cash top help households struggling with bills and other essential costs under the Household Support Scheme.
How much you can get depends on where you live and in many areas.
To qualify you’ll usually need to be a recipient of council tax support.
You can search for yours using the search tool on gov.uk – just enter your postcode.
It’s also worth noting that millions of Brits are missing out on benefits they’re entitled to adding up to billions of pounds in total.