Reclaim energy bill credit

julia kukiewicz
By Julia Kukiewicz

energy bill credit

Energy bill credit - a positive balance that has usually built up because the supplier overestimated usage - has often gone unclaimed in recent years.

It might sound like something you'd notice: in November 2013 a whistleblower claimed British Gas had made £20 million by funnelling unclaimed bill credits back into their business.

In the same month, it emerged that Npower were holding £400m in positive balances.

As we update this article, in October 2014, a campaign has been launched aiming to reunite former customers with unpaid bill credit. Earlier this year the Government got energy companies to agree to start automatically refunding money when accounts are in credit, though the rules are still slightly different for each company.

Read on to find the rules for each provider and how to reclaim any cash owed, if necessary.

Alternatively, skip ahead here to find out how energy bills get into credit in the first place or skip to the end to find out more about preventing going into credit.

Bill credit: the rules

After last year's revelations about just how much cash energy suppliers are hanging on to, suppliers have made changes pretty swiftly.

Most will automatically refund accounts that are in credit by more than £5, though it's still worth checking and applying for a refund if necessary.

The suppliers' refund policies

This is how it works: When the direct debit comes up for review the supplier will look at the amount in credit, and if it's over a certain amount, shown below, they'll refund it automatically.

Suppliers now need to review accounts annually, but some do it more than once a year - especially if they are provided with up-to-date meter readings.

The direct debit review is supposed to check whether payments need to be adjusted so credit will also depend on that process. The supplier might give the account holder the option to keep the credit in order to reduce the monthly payments, for example.

Here are the automatic refund policies of the big six:

Account reviews/year Old amount for automatic refund New amount for automatic refund
British Gas 2 £100 £75, with an accurate meter reading
E.ON 1 £150 £5
EDF 1 (first review will be within 15 months of account opening) £75 Any amount in credit
Npower 2 £60 £5
Scottish Power 1 3 months of direct debit payments
Average bill is £1,200 so that's £300
Note SP pay in credit
£75, or more than one month's payment amount
Scottish and Southern Power (SSE) 1 £100 Any, with an accurate meter reading

How to request a refund

As we noted above, energy suppliers may keep a credit balance if it's under their automatic refund amount, as they consider customers are better off using it to pay their bill.

But under Condition 27 of the Gas and Electricity Supply Licence Conditions, energy suppliers must give a refund if one is requested.

The supplier will ask the customer to submit their request with a new meter reading, as they don't want to give away money that should be used to pay a bill.

Check the meter and then use the following links to check your supplier's policy on how to request a refund:

How long should a refund take?

Licence conditions only specify that refunds must be made "in a timely manner".

British Gas say they aim to refund customers within four working days.

Npower and SSE expect to refund to Direct Debit customers within 10 working days, while Scottish Power customers and SSE customers who pay by cheque should have their refunds within 14 working days.

No refund? How to complain

Those who have requested a refund but haven't received it are entitled to make a complaint to get the issue resolved.

People who include their customer number(s), the date(s) they contacted the supplier previously and how much they're owed, and who keep it brief and polite tend to get the best results.

The suppliers' formal complaints procedures are available here:

If after eight weeks a complaint hasn't been resolved the problem can be taken to the Ombudsman, an independent adjudicator who will be able to resolve the dispute.

Customers can't skip straight to this step. They need to show the Ombudsman that they've made their best effort to resolve the problem with the supplier, and be prepared to produce the paperwork regarding the complaint to demonstrate that.

The Ombudsman used by the big six energy firms is available here.

How energy bills get into credit

There's one main reason that energy bills get into credit - the seasons - plus a couple of more unusual problems.

Winter to summer direct debit confusion

The amount of energy we use changes from month to month with the weather, yet energy companies want their customers to pay a fixed monthly direct debit.

In theory, that shouldn't be a problem: sure, your account will go into credit in the summer but then you'll be able to use that credit when bills go up in the winter. With a direct debit, you're the ant, not the grasshopper.

energy use over seasons

In addition, when you buy gas and electricity from one supplier, a credit on one account may be used to pay down a debit on the other one so, again, your credit keeps things in balance.

However, when a direct debit is set too high it can leave an account constantly in credit, which is no use at all.

If you think that applies to you, go to our how to reclaim section above. If you're not sure, find more on changing direct debits down the page here.

Credit for a complaint

Credit can also build up on an account when energy customers receive compensation after making a complaint.

There's not space here to get into all the ways energy companies often fall short but compensation is usually awarded when a product was mis-sold or when bills were wrong for a long period - for example, because the energy company didn't fix a faulty meter.

Occasionally, big errors mean a payout for thousands of customers at once, like the £63 million Npower paid out in 2010.

Credit left after a switch

Finally, credit may be left in an account as a result of a switching mix-up.

The final bill to settle an account with an old supplier often seems to cause some confusion and if the supplier change is because of a house move, the potential for credit to go unclaimed is obvious.

Customers should keep hold of their old account details and final meter readings, then check with their old provider, or go through

Avoiding getting into credit

As we noted above, accounts can get into credit because the Direct Debit is set at the wrong level.

But ditching Direct Debit is a bad idea because it saves money with all of the big providers and, when it's set up correctly, it does help ease those terrifying winter energy bills.

Here's how much paying by direct debit saves a year with the big six:

Direct Debit saving
British Gas Varies with tariff, but most give 0.31 p/kWh for gas, and 0.93 p/kWH for electricity.
Average savings of £43 per year on gas and £30 per year on electricity
E.ON £35 per fuel
EDF 6% or lower rate depending on the tariff
Npower £40 elec, £50 gas, £90 for both
Scottish Power Varies by tariff
Scottish and Southern Power (SSE) up to £40 per fuel

At the time of writing many smaller suppliers, including Co-op, Ebico, and Ovo - don't offer direct debit discounts.

Cash for accounts in credit

Finally, note that in some cases having credit in an account can be a very good thing.

Scottish Power will pay £1 for every £33 that an account is in credit over £100.

So, if an account is £199 in credit the account holder would get £3. The upper limit is £496, or a £12 reward.

Ovo Energy also pay out when an account is in credit: they're paying 3% monthly or quarterly depending on how customers receive their bills.

When you consider it's tax free, that's better than most savings accounts.


10 August 2016

Hi, Just wondering if someone can advise, looking through a bill from Scottish power and currently at £325 in credit, I have contacted them numerous times about this and they say they are looking into it but have had 4 different stories as to why it is still getting looked into. They are now saying that because we have a key for the meter they do not need to give us the cash as we only get it if it is Direct Debit
Any advice greatly appreciated.

17 September 2015

In £2000 credit with Npower and struggling to get it back.

12 March 2015

Scottish Power owe me over £1200 from being in credit and won't give me my money back as they say I'm a "difficult case" and they need to work out what to do. I'm really struggling for money yet they're earning interest on my money when it should be in my bank!

13 March 2015

Scottish power owe me over £1k and I am having similar problems since I closed the account following a switch. I keep getting the 'in 5 working days' replies and generally being fobbed off.

9 March 2015

Npower owe me £500 and struggling to get this back!

5 February 2015

They just con you. I have had lies promising two bills within days, anything to avoid paying me back the £500 they hold of mine.

12 January 2015

After switching energy companies in December 2013 I was over charged on my final bill by £391, it was all a mix up between the old and new company which took till mid June 2014 for the money to be repaid to me. I didn't realise that they'd made 2 payments of £391 weeks apart from each other, it took them till December 2014 to notice as well, I've now received a letter asking for £391 back. Can they insist on full payment straight away?

29 October 2014
Sam Turner

Scottish power took a further direct debit payment of £117 one day before my changeover to an alternative supplier on 3/9/14, despite knowing that my account was £300+ IN CREDIT. They have ignored my complaints, not telephoned me back, despite the agreed arrangement for a booked call back at a specific day and time. Other than an automatic response to my e-mail stating that they will respond within 5 days, which again they have failed to honour.
I have also complained to the OFGEM complaints department who again have simply acknowledged the e-mail and I have had no further response to date.
It seems that these companies are above the law and when and if they are fined by Ofgem they simply add the cost of the fine to their net costs and use this as justification to increase their charges. Isn't it about time the fines were levied on the directors then perhaps complaints would diminish and customer care would improve?

26 October 2014
Garry Clarkson

Sadly this is the depth of fraud and theft in the energy market Thatcher set up. There is nothing you can do. Even going to Ofgem (which I did) means they get a fine which then goes into government coffers. Fill in a form at the court service web site. They rarely turn up (as their 'barrister' is in fact not even registered as a solicitor barrister but says he is - again, fraud). Nothing done by Ofgem, Ombudsman, government or police. In my industry I would be struck off at the first complaint.

16 October 2014
Keith Reeder

British Gas owes me the thick end of £1400, and have for over a year. In addition, they've "made up" readings I've submitted, adding a meaningful amount to every reading I've sent in over this period. And they've cacelled my DD, and I'm unable to reinstate it. "Best" of all, they say they sent a check to me in December last year. I didn't get it, but they still deducted £1150 off my credit balance. I'm currently in discussion with my solicitor - this is getting VERY close to fraud and to theft.

9 May 2014
paul lewis

Npower just gave me a £179 refund, £10 reduction off my monthly dual bill and £30 compensation for lack of correspondence and acknowledgement of my request.

5 May 2014

My credit with NPower currently stands at £925 and increasing. I have requested a refund and am waiting. Anyone think £925 is highly excessive?

13 October 2014

I was over £600 in credit (and usage 36% down on last year) after my Winter/Spring bill around April time and not only did they REFUSE to refund the credit they also increased my monthly DD.

5 February 2015

Same with me, they owe me £500 and when I complained and asked for it back they doubled my direct debit from £42 to £96. Crooks.

30 April 2014

Having trouble with npower, £339 in credit, they keep doing bill reversals. Can anyone explain bill reversal?

13 June 2016
Clive Rennison

Same issue here, my account stands at a whopping £1300 in credit, I have been chasing them for weeks now and keep being fobbed off with 'it's with the backroom team' for the final bill to be produced. I am getting increasingly more and more frustrated with them. They are saying that ovo still haven't provided them with the meter readings. I don't belive it for one second! They are doing everything possible to delay me getting my money back, does anyone have any help they could offer please?

1 September 2014

I'm having exactly the same problem. They owe me £745. There must be someone we can contact to get a refund!

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