Skip navigation

Energy supplier obligations: What should they be doing for us?

a burning gas hobWe know energy suppliers provide us with our much-needed gas and electricity, but there’s a whole lot more they’re supposed to be doing too. After all, lights turning on and cookers heating up are just one small part of the service you pay for. 

Meters: who reads what? 

In a nutshell, both you and your energy supplier can read your meter, but the provider has a responsibility to send a representative to read it at least once every two years.  

However, this means most of your bills are likely to be based on an estimated reading. To calculate the estimate, suppliers simply look at how much energy you’ve previously used at a similar time period. If you’ve recently switched suppliers, your new provider will ask a data collector for past readings, or they’ll just produce a standard estimate.  

Hint: It’s a good idea to try reading your meter yourself, especially if you’ve recently moved house. For help on how to take an accurate reading, check out the Confused.com Guide to Reading Your Gas and Electricity Meter.  

If you do decide to have a go at reading the meter, just call your energy supplier’s meter phone-line to deliver the results. The number should be clearly stated on your bill, but if you don’t fancy chatting to a representative, some energy provider websites let you enter the new meter reading online. Easy peasy!

Bills: what’s the deal?

Most energy consumers receive bills at quarterly intervals, no matter what form of payment. Energy suppliers are under no legal obligation, however, to provide you with a bill at specific intervals. Here’s the energy bill lowdown:

  • Even if you haven’t had an energy bill for ages, you will, of course, still be expected to pay for your energy consumption at some point. However, the Limitations Act 1980 stops suppliers from recovering gas and electricity charges if the energy was used over six years ago. For Scotland, this period is five years.
  • Consumers on prepayment meters usually receive a statement at least once a year detailing their energy consumption for that period, but it’s worth knowing that the statement might be based on an estimate.
  • If you have recently calculated and reported a new meter reading, your energy provider should send you a new bill based on it.
  • If you’ve set up an online account with your energy supplier, you should have online access to your statements and bills too.

Knocking on debt’s door?

If you get into repayment problems, don’t bury your head in the sand. Your first step is to call the energy supplier and explain your difficulties. Energy suppliers are obliged to treat you fairly if you’re having trouble meeting payments. One way they do this is to offer a repayment plan. For instance, if you haven’t received a bill for a certain amount of time (e.g. one year), you’ll be given that same time period to pay up.

HINT: If you were thinking of finding a cheaper energy deal by switching suppliers, bear in mind you will be required to pay any outstanding debt to your current supplier first. This includes the completion of a payment plan. 

Renewable resources 

Energy suppliers have an obligation to use renewable energy in their business - at least 6% of their energy resources should be renewable. Also, under the Renewables Obligation Order (introduced April 2002) energy suppliers are required to spend an annually increasing percentage of their energy sales on renewable energy.

To meet the obligation, energy suppliers must:

  • Acquire ‘Renewables Obligation Certificates’ – tradable certificates known as ROCS which are bagged for each megawatt hour of renewable energy generated, or
  • Pay a ‘buy-out’ price - according to the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform , this price should be equivalent to £35.76/megawatt hour in 2008/09 and should increase each year. If a provider opts to pay the buy-out price, the payments are put into a fund which is later used by electricity suppliers who earned ROCs.

Alternatively, providers can earn ROCs and pay a buy-out price.

Got it? Good! 

So now Confused.com has illuminated you on energy supplier obligations, and what additional things energy providers can do for you, why not see what you can do for yourself. Look into switching suppliers to get a great deal on your utilities.