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Energy back billing: your rights explained

Have you received an unexpected bill from your energy supplier for energy you didn’t know you’d used? Find out why your supplier sent it, and what rights you have over disputing or repaying it.

Woman frowning at energy bill

Energy back bills are a ‘catch-up’ bill sent to you by your supplier when you’ve been incorrectly charged for your gas and/or electricity use. It’s an additional bill to cover extra energy you’ve used – but not been charged for – over the past 12 months.

Ofgem’s back billing rules apply equally to households and businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The main rule is:

Your supplier can't charge you for gas and electricity you used more than 12 months ago if it never sent you a bill. This includes any shortfall that has built up because your supplier set your Direct Debit too low. It also comes into effect if your supplier has continued to send bills based on estimated readings even after you’ve sent it accurate meter readings.

Your supplier should make the back billing rules clear in your contract’s terms and conditions.

However, this doesn't apply if:

  • You blocked meter readings at your property more than once without good reason.
  • You were sent a bill for the unused energy before those 12 months had passed, but you didn’t pay it.
  • You’ve been knowingly using gas or electricity without informing the supplier.

There are several reasons why you might receive a back bill. Here's how to resolve them.

If you haven't received an energy bill in some time:

Let your supplier know as soon as possible that you’re waiting for a bill or that you’ve moved into a new property. See our guide to finding out who your gas and electric supplier is if you don’t know who they are.

If your bills have been based on estimated or inaccurate meter readings: 

Find out how to read your meter or switch to a smart meter to supply accurate readings going forward. If you're supplying regular meter readings, but getting bills based on estimates, contact your supplier.

If your Direct Debit was accidentally cancelled, so you’ve not been paying anything towards your bills:

Check your bank statements regularly. If you notice your energy Direct Debit hasn’t been paid for over a month, contact your supplier immediately to set it up again.

If your supplier has charged the wrong meter:

Check the gas and electric meter numbers on your energy bill, then compare them to the numbers on your actual meters to check they’re correct. Look for a Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) or S number on your electric bill and meter. Also look for a Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) or M number on your gas bill and meter.

The supplier sets payment terms in the back bill it sends to you. It’s likely to demand payment in 1 lump sum within a set time of the date on the bill. If you can’t afford to do this, contact your supplier to look at setting up a repayment plan. You may be able to ask for a repayment plan that pays back the debt over the same period it built up. For example, if you’ve been charged for 8 months’ gas and electricity usage, you should be able to pay back the debt with an 8-month repayment plan.

You can challenge a back bill if you believe your supplier has charged you for energy you used more than 12 months ago. Write to your supplier and make it clear you’re challenging the bill because it’s trying to charge for a period longer than back billing rules allow. If you’ve tried to contact your supplier previously about receiving inaccurate bills, mention this in the letter. If your supplier tries to force you to pay for energy over 12 months old, you can make a formal complaint.

Speak to your supplier about repayment plan options to see if you can pay back the debt in smaller, more affordable instalments. If you’re unable to agree terms, or are unhappy with what your supplier has offered, you can contact one of the following for help:

  • Citizens Advice: call 0808 223 1133 or use its online web chat service.
  • Advice Direct Scotland: If you live in Scotland, visit its website for access to a web chat service. Alternatively, call 0808 196 8660.

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