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Martin Lewis: Take weekly screen grabs of your online energy account in case your supplier goes bust
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MSE_Sophie MSE StaffMSE Staff
In the first episode of a new series of his live ITV show, MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis has urged households to take a screenshot of their online energy account now in case their provider goes bust.
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Since then, I download my statements as soon as they're produced and keep a statement of account showing payments (DDs and card payments) and amounts for bills produced, so I know exactly what my account balance should be at any time. This played into its own when Avro went under, but it's handy to do in the event a supplier messes up your billing.
Different suppliers work differently, but in general the online account reflects the lastest account status based upon what has been charged and what has been credited. Some credits can take up to a week to be shown: some charges may not yet have been applied.
So if you are with a supplier that only bills you quarterly, or even longer (especially if you don't supply regular meter readings), but you are crediting monthly by direct debit, then your online account can at times show credit balances of £100s because your account has not yet been charged with the energy used.
Also, many smaller suppliers, and so those more likley to fail, often charge monthly in advance. So my online accounts are always nicely showing a credit because as soon as the supplier has produced the last monthly (in my case) bill that takes account of consumption, there is another credit added. But I don't expect that credit back as it is going towards the energy I am currently conmsuming.
I think better advice is simply to keep your own copies of the bills as they are produced. You should be checking them each time anyway, so that effectively provides stakes in the ground as you go along, so you shouldn't need to go back too far if your supplier fails. But if you do, you have all the details on the bills you need.
As for credits, well that detail is available from your bank (if you have not downloaded your bank statements)
As long as you have the last undisputed bill, then that will state what your account balance is, including charges and credits (which should be detailed) included within that bill.
If your supplier then goes bust, it is a simple task of just accounting for the energy used since your last bill, as well as any credits made recently not included on that last bill. (not forgetting to carry forward any final credit or debit balance shown on that last bill)
What is important, is that you take a meter reading on the day the SoLR starts supplying you, as that will be the final meter reading the failed supplier will use. Fail to do that and you risk a low estimate being used by both, which will mean you get charged more overall in these times where the SoLRs tariff is likley to be higher that the tariff of the failed supplier.
If all else fails, with your downloaded bills, you can do the entire computation yourself of what the failed supplier owes/is owed covering the entire period they supplied you.
You will have the start meter reading with them, the end meter reading with them, the applicable dates, the tariff costs, and as I said, you can get details from your bank as to how much you have paid them.
In short, the online day to day credit balance reflected on your account can give you an idea of where you are, but you also need to fully understand what the balance does and does not include. Only your bills usually have that full information, and provide you with stakes in the ground. So if you are billed monthly (and there has been no dispute) then you are only left working out the the new balance based on the final balance of your last bill, together with the effect of charges & credits not included when that last bill was produced. That's not more than 31 days at most.
How-ever, I recently received an email from them for a metre reading, so went to submit this, but wasn't able to load the information and a message appeared on-screen, 'We're unable to retrieve your data at this time. We've added your request to the queue, check back in 15 minutes.
Anyway, no matter which button I clicked on, nothing would come up....., except a window where I could make a one-off payment (yea, as if), so clicked on this, but did NOT enter bank card details, but clicked on the submit button and guess what, a display with today's date and my current balance popped up. So, I was able to do as Martin advised and took a screen shot of my current balance. (Just in case it all gets a bit nasty). For anyone who is in the same boat.