Energy bills crisis: Households urged to take meter readings before price hike in October - when to submit and why
Submitting a meter reading this week could save you money long-term
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People have been urged to take and submit their energy meter readings ahead of prices increasing in October.
Doing so will prevent providers from charging customers more by overestimating the amount of energy being used, according to experts including consumer champion Martin Lewis.
Energy UK said customers should check the best way to submit readings before October 1, as most providers will allow them to be submitted for a few days either side of that date.
Some firms have also offered extra channels for people to submit readings, as a last-minute scramble is expected sparking a high volume of calls and website traffic.
How much will energy prices rise from October?
The average household bill is set to rise from £1,971 to a frozen cap of £2,500 under the energy price guarantee, which was announced by new Prime Minister Liz Truss earlier this month.
That’s an increase of 27% from the previous cap, which limited the rate energy companies can charge customers on a standard variable tariff.
Although the energy price guarantee will limit the price providers can charge their customers for units of energy, how much a consumer saves will depend on usage.
That means that the energy price guarantee only caps the cost per unit that households pay, so the actual bill is still determined by how much energy has been consumed.
Based on current prices from October, the government has said that on average usage households will save around £1,000.
Overall, household bills will still be 96% higher than last year.
When should I take a meter reading before prices rise in October?
Energy Action Scotland boss Frazer Scott said that this week, every household across the UK ‘must make sure’ they submit a meter reading to avoid paying a ‘penny more than they absolutely have to; when prices go up on October 1.
Money saving expert Martin Lewis has said that even though meter readings should be taken over the next few days, he wanted it to be ‘meter reading week’ rather than ‘meter reading day’ or the system could become overwhelmed.
In the most recent Money Saving Expert newsletter, he wrote: “The fact huge numbers did it on the same day [back in March] meant energy firms’ websites crashed and their phone lines went down.
“That led to huge frustration and time wasted for customers, and abuse for staff.”
Mr Lewis said that the difference in readings would be ‘tiny’ if people took them a few days either side of October 1.
He added that some companies allow customers to backdate meter readings by up to a fortnight, so they didn’t necessarily have to submit it on the day of the energy price rises.
Those with working smart or prepay meters don’t need to do a reading, although they might want to take a picture of the meter ‘as a back up’, said Mr Lewis.
Why should I take a meter reading?
Energy companies use meter readings to calculate the usage of direct debit customers over a period of time.
Submitting meter readings prevents companies from potentially overcharging customers by overestimating the amount of energy that they have used.
What should I do if I have been charged more on my energy bills?
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Thursday (September 29), Mr Lewis advised anyone with concerns after being landed with a hefty bill to ‘bite the bullet and get on with this, because you do owe that money and it will come back at some time’.
“The sooner you can deal with it, the sooner it can be managed,” he went on.
“Do your meter readings, find out what happens, talk to the company as soon as possible, tell them the situation you’re in.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to manage a payment plan if you’re vulnerable in that situation.
“Communicating with someone you owe money to, sooner rather than later, is better.”
Citizens Advice also recommended that customers who are not able to pay their bills should contact their provider and offer to come up with a payment plan.
The charity has a handy guide on how to read your energy meter on its website.
Energy price hike - what support is available?
To help with rising energy costs, every UK household is set to receive a one-off £400 fuel bill discount from October.
It will be paid directly to customers’ energy accounts over six months in instalments of £66 and £67.
Low-income households on certain tax credits and benefits have already received a first instalment of £326.
But Energy Action Scotland boss Frazer Scott branded the payment as ‘just a sticking plaster on the deepest of wounds’ with fuel poverty ‘at record levels’.