Unexpected Enormous Electricity Bill - British Gas

AmyK Posts: 12
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We have lived in our rented property for around a year and a half. When we moved in we asked for a smart meter to be fitted for the electricity and were told that we did have a smart meter, it was just an older version. We gave a meter reading, and set our direct debit as suggested by British Gas. 

We began with high monthly direct debits to ensure that we built up a certain amount of credit while we could afford it, and then on British Gas's suggestion, we dropped our direct debits down to £10 per month having accumulated almost £800 in credit. 

A couple of weeks ago, British Gas sent out an engineer to fit a new smart meter. This morning we received a bill for over £2000. The customer support agent said this was because they had significantly underestimated the electricity usage. 

This feels completely unethical. We have done everything that has been asked of us, submitted meter readings when asked, and complied with what BG have suggested we do. 

We categorically cannot afford this bill, and we now have absolutely no credit to cushion any further billing.
It is not our fault that BG have underestimated our usage, we were told that we did have a smart meter so did not need to submit monthly readings, and had we been aware that our usage was so far beyond what they were billing us for, we would have significantly changed the way we were operating. 

Is there anything we can do about this? Are there any financial services which can hold them to account for it? 


  • MultiFuelBurner
    MultiFuelBurner Posts: 2,786
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    edited 19 January at 2:36PM
    What was the meter reading when you moved in? And date of reading.

    What is the meter reading(s) now?

    There will be two if you are economy 7

    How much have you paid in the time between the start reading(s) and today's reading(s).

    Does this enormous bill have the readings as estimates and how do they differ from your readings as of today?

    It is your responsibility to monitor your own usage and then pay for your usage. This is not an all you can eat buffet sadly.

    "I can lead you to the money saving well but cannot make you drink from it"

    As mum always said "don't respond to imbeciles just ignore them" wise words mum 
  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,663
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    Welcome to the forum.
    What was the meter reading when you moved in? What was the final reading on the old meter (it should be on a card or sticker adjacent to the new meter)?
    I'm sure that as a responsible householder you have been checking your BG bills when received. Have they been using actual meter readings or estimates?
    N. Hampshire, he/him. Octopus Go elec & Tracker gas / Shell BB / Lyca mobi. Ripple Kirk Hill member.
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  • BoGoF
    BoGoF Posts: 6,788
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    edited 19 January at 2:38PM
    So you didn't bother checking that the bills being generated were based on any meter readings? Smart meter or not there comes some personal responsibilty to check these things. Given the very well published high energy costs I don-t think reducing to £10 per month was a good idea, credit or not.

    That was the point to double check things.

  • Swipe
    Swipe Posts: 5,014
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    This is where keeping a spreadsheet of regular weekly or monthly meter readings and a simple formula with your tariff rates and standing charges to work it out for you on the last day of each month comes in useful.
  • Robin9
    Robin9 Posts: 11,972
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    On the new meter there will be a sticker which will have the readings of the old meter. Are these the same as on your bill ?
    Never pay on an estimated bill
  • MeteredOut
    MeteredOut Posts: 1,123
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    edited 19 January at 2:51PM
    OP, read up on back billing rules. You *might* be able to get away with usage more than a year old. 


    At a minimum, you'll have to pay for usage for the past 12 months, but BG should work with you to come up with an affordable payment plan.

    PS. 2 posts in 10 years on MSE is good going, though hopefully you'll come back and give others an update this time - threads like this are great not just for those getting the support, but also for others who might be going through the same situation, and letting them know the outcome is a way of paying back that help.
  • TheElectricCow
    TheElectricCow Posts: 452
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    While as the bill payer it is your responsibility to be checking that your bills are correct rather than blindly paying whatever they suggest, but you’ve obviously acted in good faith and the past can’t be changed so let’s focus on what can be done going forward.

    First thing is to figure out if the new bill is accurate. As a minimum you’ll need your opening reading and the last reading taken from the old meter, and to check both of these match up with the bill on the correct dates.

    If the amount they claim you owe is correct then you can ask for a payment plan to reduce the debt over a number of months instead of paying in one lump sum. This would take the form of an increase to your direct debit based on what you can afford, likely over 1-2 years. Keep in mind you will still need to pay for your current usage as well as the repayments.

    In terms of “holding them to account” you could raise a complaint with them for poor service, due to them informing you that you didn’t need to supply meter readings and for lowering the DD based on estimated billing. This may get you a financial goodwill gesture of some description but probably not much more. But if the new bill is accurate they have technically done what they were supposed to and you haven’t materially lost any money as a direct result of this, so it would be difficult to take things much further than that.
  • AmyK
    AmyK Posts: 12
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    Just to be very clear - we reduced our direct debit because we had built up significant credit by paying more than we needed in the beginning, so we could then use that credit to get us through the more difficult months, and pay the minimum extra on top (the direct debit). At no point did we think that our bills were £10 per month, and they haven't been. 
    We have been perfectly responsible in doing as the energy company had told us - we gave meter readings when asked, which was at the start of the process. We were told we had a smart meter which they could take readings off beyond that. 
     was only on the fitting of this new smart meter that anything was brought up. 
    Our bills did say estimate on them but we had no reason to believe that they were estimated incorrectly - we had not been asked for meter readings, we were in huge credit with plenty of option for British Gas to raise the issue with us.

    Please do not assume that we have been stupid or irresponsible and read what has been written - it's very clear that we haven't been trying to skew anything. 
  • AmyK
    AmyK Posts: 12
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I will also say that when we rang up at the beginning of the process to ask for a smart meter monitor because our house didn't have one - they told us we didn't need one because they were getting readings through from ours. 
  • RelievedSheff
    RelievedSheff Posts: 11,124
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    It turns out that £800 was not a "significant credit" though. If you had worked out your own usage based on your meter readings then you could have calculated what you should have been paying.

    To have received a bill for £2000 you are high energy consumers.

    You need to contact your supplier and work out an affordable plan to repay your debt and also agree what your monthly payment should be set at to cover your ongoing energy bills. Do your own sums first so that you know what ball park you should be in.
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