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What to Do if You Have a Problem with a Bill

Nobody likes getting bills, but it’s worse when they turn out to be for more money than you expected. Know your rights in these situations.

Despite how official a bill may seem, companies often make mistakes, so if you feel you’ve been charged excessively for a service, it’s worth taking the time to check that your bill is right.

The first step is to see if the bill itself gives an idea of why the charges may be higher. Compare it to an older bill and check through the items you’re being charged for to see if there’s an explanation.

If it is an energy bill, you may be charged more because the cost of energy has increased. However, you should be given notice of this happening 30 days before the new prices take effect. You may also be charged extra if the supplier takes a meter reading and it turns out that you have been paying less than you should, but if you have cooperated with any requests for meter readings then you can only be charged extra for any energy used over the past year.

In situations where your service provider has decided to charge you additional fees for any reason, the circumstances in which this can happen must have been explained in the terms and conditions of your contract. They also cannot charge you an unreasonably high amount, as this would be considered unfair. If these two conditions are satisfied, however, you will have to pay the extra charges.

If you disagree with a bill you have received, you should write a letter to the service provider explaining the problem with it and send it to their customer services department. Enclose a copy of the bill in question.

You may sometimes receive bills after you have cancelled a service or switched supplier. The bill may be for services you received while you were still with that company, in which case you have to pay them, but if they are attempting to bill you for a period after you cancelled or switched, you do not have to pay, and should contact them and explain that you were not using their service at that time.

Problems paying bills

If you are struggling to pay your bills, you should contact your provider and explain this to them. They should allow you to set up an arrangement to start paying back what you owe them. This should be based on what you can afford based on your income and outgoings, and the provider should not pressure you into paying more than you can reasonably manage.

Each company should have a Code of Practice, which will explain how they deal with customers who are having difficulty paying their bills. Ask to see your provider’s Code of Practice so you know how they are meant to handle situations like yours.

If the service you are struggling to afford is something important like electricity or gas, it is unlikely that the supplier will cut you off if you make an attempt to pay. There are also certain limitations on who they can disconnect and when, meaning that vulnerable customers, such as pensioners or disabled people, have additional protections against it. Water companies are not permitted to disconnect domestic customers who owe them money at all. However, they may take you to court if you do not pay.

Less vital services such as phone or internet services may be disconnected if you are in a lot of debt to them. This may even happen if you have set up a payment plan, as they may want you to pay off what you owe before they will continue to provide a service. Again, however, vulnerable people who need the services more than others will have additional protection.

Vulnerable groups who could be entitled to extra help and protection include:

  • pensioners
  • disabled people or people with long-term illnesses
  • those in severe financial difficulty

If you struggle to understand the advice given to you by providers, you may also be classed as a vulnerable customer. Also, if there are very young children in your household, then you may be entitled to additional protection when dealing with energy suppliers specifically.