More than 2.5 million households are being unfairly charged for their utilities it has been revealed, after new research found that over 9% of customers received inaccurate bills in the last year.
The figures are highlighted in The Secrets of Better Billing, a study commissioned by utility billing software business Echo Managed Services, creator of Aptumo and RapidXtra.
The company surveyed 1,000 UK households and found that 9.3% had received an inaccurate energy bill over the last 12 months and 7.7% an inaccurate water bill.
Inaccurate bills were just one of the many complaints customers had with how they were being charged.
10.6% of energy customers have found that they are on a tariff where they are paying more than necessary. And 7% had continued to be billed even after a service had been terminated.
Inaccurate, inflated bills are a particular concern as many customers already struggle to pay what they really do owe. Data from Ofwat, showed that 3 million UK water customers fall into this group of vulnerable customers that need to be protected by utility companies.
Andy Mack, software services director at Echo Managed Services, commented: “Clearly, investment is needed to improve the detection of unusual billing patterns in order to establish if an error has been made or to identify other issues such as leakage. More sophisticated software can help companies spot issues and be more proactive with their service. Companies should look to contact the customer to investigate the issue rather than simply sending out an inaccurate bill.
“It’s also possible that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. According to our research fewer than half (48%) of households read their bills thoroughly and 12% admitted to not even looking at them. Therefore, many people may be totally unaware that they are paying inaccurate bills.
“Accurate billing is a consideration for consumer protection and of public trust in utility companies. Especially when the number of vulnerable customers who struggle to pay their bills is considered. An incorrectly inflated bill – even if later detected and corrected – can have serious knock on effects to people who are already struggling to cope financially.”
The full report can be read online at https://www.echo-ms.com.