‘I challenged my energy supplier when it tried to TRIPLE my bill… and it backed down’ Customers urged to push back amid gas price surge

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  • Amid fuel crisis, suppliers are asking customers to pay double or triple
  • But on Sunday the Mail understands that some are holding back when challenged
  • A reader disputed the £215 bill increase and his supplier reduced it to £23
  • Credits to customer accounts can be held by energy firms and can earn interest.
  • On Sunday, Mel Rachel Ricard Strauss shared her top tip for staying delicious in no time

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Families are being urged to challenge their energy supplier if it decides to demand much higher payments over the coming winter months.

The Mail on Sunday saw evidence that some suppliers are asking customers to double or triple their payments, only to back down when challenged and agree to a smaller increase.

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An increase in payments is normal at this time of year as winter is approaching, cold snaps have become the norm, and household energy use has increased.

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Shock: We have seen evidence that some suppliers are asking customers to double or triple their payments

But the size of some payment demands this time around shows that energy companies are more eager than ever for customers to maintain healthy credit balances in their accounts.

This money can then be deposited in the bank by the companies and earn interest, albeit at a pitiful rate.

The rise in wholesale prices means that all energy companies are now struggling to make profits as their costs are rising.

Since August, 13 suppliers have gone to the wall — Pure Planet, Daligas and Colorado Energy in the past few days — resulting in customers shifting to larger, more financially stronger competitors.

While these remaining companies have the financial flexibility to face record wholesale gas prices, they are looking for ways to maintain margins.

They’ve stopped offering cheap fixed-rate deals – previously the linchpin of the switching market – and pushed customers to higher standard rate tariffs as soon as they came out of a special deal.

They are also insisting that customers increase their direct debit payments.

‘I challenged my supplier about a £215 raise – and they backed off’

A reader, Tom Runner of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, was recently told by his supplier EDF that his monthly gas and electricity bill would be from £97 to £312 a month – an increase of over 300 percent. A part of the account results in a debit of £250.

‘I was a little stunned,’ says Tom, who is married and an empty nester. ‘Back in July, I anticipated rising energy costs by locking in two years of fixed-rate tariffs and I was quite upset with myself.

So, it can be said that my monthly payment would be shooting through the roof came as quite a shock.’

Shock: Tom Runner's EDF bill tells him his monthly payment is £215.  was growing

Shock: Tom Runner’s EDF bill tells him his monthly payment is £215. was growing

Although many people accept the higher payment demands without challenging them first, Tom (not his real name) decides to contact EDF by phone.

Despite repeated requests by banks for automated menus and not to call about an account query, he eventually managed to talk to someone at EDF.

Within minutes, he was able to reduce his new direct debit payment to the more affordable £120 – though still an increase of around 24 percent.

Tom, 54, says: ‘If I hadn’t tried to challenge the new payment, I would be scratching my head now wondering how I’d be able to get an extra £215 a month out of my household budget.

‘Like in all matters of personal finance – whether it is a mortgage, pension or investment – you should never lose sight of yourself.’

Expensive: Consumers have seen an increase in the prices of heating their homes and running appliances due to the increase in the wholesale price of gas

Expensive: Consumers have seen an increase in the prices of heating their homes and running appliances due to the increase in the wholesale price of gas

Justina Miltiente, energy policy expert at comparison website Uswitch, says the best way for homes to protect themselves from huge pay increases is to provide their supplier with regular meter readings.

She says: ‘Suppliers will typically check your direct debit payment twice a year, comparing actual energy consumption against estimated usage. Up-to-date meter readings help in that process.

If direct debit payment is to be increased, the supplier must give at least ten days’ notice. Failure to do so may result in compensation.

While an account credit balance before the winter months is not a bad thing, it doesn’t make sense to build up a large balance (over £100).

Request a refund – Most suppliers will process this quickly. Miltienyte says the need for homes to track their energy use as prices rise makes the case for smart meters stronger than ever.

Through a home display, usually in the kitchen, these allow families to check in real time how much energy they are using in pounds and pence. Miltienyte also urges people to adopt simple energy saving measures around the home.

Make sure appliances are turned off at sockets when not in use,’ she says. ‘Use low energy LEDs’ [light emitting diode] Wash the bulb and clothes at low temperature.’ Those who are struggling to pay their energy bills should speak to their supplier immediately – and agree on an affordable payment plan.

Some suppliers provide access to loan specialists. For example, Bulb works with loan advisor Tully who is authorized by the city’s regulator. Citizens Advice and Advice Direct Scotland can also provide assistance.

Energy regulator offgame too Provides useful consumer information.

Wrapped up: Rachel Ricard Strauss keeps warm without heating up

Wrapped up: Rachel Ricard Strauss keeps warm without heating up

My Toasty Electric Throw Helps Me Save Electricity Bills

For Christmas, many years ago, I received an ugly present. It was a big, brown, fleeting electric throw with not even a hint of Christmas sparkle or elegance. But it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received because it saved me hundreds of pounds – more than ever this year.

The cost of heating our homes is rising – and millions…

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