Energy companies accused of overcharging direct debits Business

In a TV interview, Boris Johnson admitted ‘we can do more’ after being confronted with stories from viewers struggling to make ends meet.

He promised to ‘use all ingenuity and compassion’ available to help families, but warned he did not have ‘an unlimited number of moves’ to deal with the crisis.

It came after Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last week that it would be ‘foolish’ to do more to cut energy bills now, without knowing what will happen to wholesale prices later in the year. ‘year. The price cap must be reset before the winter crisis.

Mr Sunak said he would “consider” the possibility of a windfall tax on energy companies, an idea which was again rejected by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

An additional levy would “discourage [energy companies] to make investments that we want to see, that will end up keeping prices lower for everyone,” Johnson said.

One of the biggest blows to household budgets has been the unprecedented spike in energy prices since last summer. Last month, the cap on energy bills rose by 54%, from an average of £1,277 to £1,971 a year.

This has allowed suppliers to raise their gas and electricity rates for the second time since October, prompting many to recommend that customers increase their direct debit payments in order to build up enough credit for next winter – when the cap is expected to increase further. .

Consumers contacted The Telegraph after being shocked by their bills rising, with a man saying his direct debit had more than doubled from £52 to £122 a month. Another reader said his direct debit had risen from £85 per month to an “outrageous” £185.

He added: “My boiler hasn’t been on for more than half an hour a day and I barely use it in the summer.”

Soaring costs will add thousands of pounds to some households’ annual outgoings.

But Gillian Cooper, energy policy manager at Citizens Advice, warned that suppliers should only increase payments for “good cause”.

Customers can also object to direct debit increases and request a lower amount if they think their business got it wrong.

Ms Cooper added: “There are normally justifiable reasons for an increase in your direct debit – such as building up winter credit – but your supplier should always be able to explain why it happened.

“Unfortunately, in the past we have seen some energy companies consolidate their finances at the expense of consumers. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Mr Kwarteng raised concerns about the “troublesome” dealings with Ofgem and urged him to act quickly.

In a letter to the regulator, seen by The Daily Telegraph, he said: ‘Now more than ever, we need to scrutinize and hold energy companies to the high standard which the British public rightly expects.’

“I have heard disturbing reports that some energy providers may be increasing direct debits for consumers more than they should. This is totally unacceptable behavior.

“The people who are hurting the most from record high gasoline prices are ultimately the customers, not the energy suppliers.

“It is absolutely essential that consumers pay a fair price for their energy.”

The letter was sent on April 22. On Tuesday, Ofgem responded to confirm it had commissioned a series of “market compliance reviews”, giving suppliers three weeks to respond to its data requests.

A spokesman for the regulator said: ‘Our top priority is to protect consumers and we recently wrote to suppliers alerting them that we are commissioning a series of market compliance reviews to ensure, among other things, that they treat direct debits fairly, and that overall they are held to higher standards of performance in customer service and protection of vulnerable customers.

No individual company is known to have artificially increased its levies.

A spokesperson for Energy UK said: ‘Suppliers must increase direct debit payments to reflect bill increases and are required to set them at a fair and reasonable level depending on the customer’s individual circumstances – taking into account factors such as previous energy consumption or check-in with previous installments.

“It is right for the regulator to seek to ensure that suppliers comply with these requirements.

“Customers who have concerns about the level of their Direct Debit payments should contact their provider.”

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This notice was published: 2022-05-03 18:25:22

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