Ask Andy lets you send me your money questions and problems. This time around one reader is shocked by a sky high gas bill.
I was sent this email by Grace (who asked that her name be changed)
“My quarterly gas bill is £400! That’s so much more than normal and I don’t know why. I thought fixing was meant to mean you know what you pay. Help!”
Without seeing the bill, it’s difficult to work out exactly why it is so much higher, so I’ve five questions:
1. Has the fix expired?
Every month hundred of fixed deals come to an end, and since most last longer than a year it’s easy to forget when yours expires. Check your bill and see what tariff is listed. If the fix has finished you’ll be on the “standard variable tariff” which will be a lot more money.
If this has happened, shop around for the best deal out there. If that is with a different provider, you can now switch in just 17 working days – much faster than the six weeks it was.
If your fix hasn’t expired yet, put a note in your diary about a month before it does so you can switch in time.
2. Are the meter readings estimated?
When did you last read the meter yourself, or have someone from the company come around to get an official reading? The bill will tell you what they’ve based your totals on.
Estimates can be low or high. If it’s higher than the actual meter reading, the company might have adjusted your direct debits to this new reading. Call them with the actual reading and ask them to adjust the bill.
3. Is it a “Catch up” or “back” bill?
If estimates have previously been low and they’ve now got higher actual readings, it could mean you’ve not paid enough and owe the company money. When this happens you’ll be issued a “catch-up bill” or “back-bill”. They’ll either add this to the bill or raise your monthly payments to cover the debt.
Of course this can work both ways and you could have credit if you’ve paid more – but not in this case.
4. Have you been using more?
If either questions 1 or 3, or both, are true, it’s worth thinking about how you use your energy. Have you bought any new appliances or had the heating on more? Even having more things plugged in can drain energy. Your wi-fi router could be costing £20 a year.
5 . Are there any mistakes on the bill?
If none of the above seem to be true, check the meter reading. You could have made a mistake when giving the actual reading.
It’s also worth double checking details like address and even the the meter reference number (also called MPRN or MPAN) to ensure it is your property that you’ve been billed for.