The regulator Ofgem is investigating energy suppliers’ policies to check they are being adhered to, after discovering that approximately £204 million has been left over from customers after closing their business energy accounts and approximately £202 million has been found left over from old personal consumer accounts.
Ofgem has informed energy suppliers that they must “find ways to use this money to benefit consumers more generally”, and they need to be held accountable for what has happened with the money.
A senior partner leading the enforcement department of Ofgem, Sarah Harrison informed the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 “we’re using the opportunity to alert customers “, she continued “Make sure that you take with you what is owed to you when you change supplier”.
Director of Ofgem, Philip Cullum states “we want suppliers to show more responsibility”, CEO of Ofgem Andrew Wright also added, “when many people are struggling to make ends meet, it is vital that energy companies do the right thing and do all they can to return this money and restore consumer trust”.
Over 6 years money has been building up after people or businesses have either switched their suppliers or moved location. Possibly as many as 3.5 million personal and 300k business customers are affected.
Andrew Wright also went on to say, “we want to see decisive action by suppliers, individually and collectively, to address the issue”.
Angela knight, a spokesperson from Energy UK who represent the suppliers said, “we want to give the money back, of course we do”, and continued, “thousands of letters are sent out, people are telephoned, but if you don’t have contact details, how do you find them?”
Another energy supplier SSE stated that they have written off 4 times the amount of money through bad debt compared to the amount of money that is credit and hasn’t been returned to customers and stated, “ although sometimes customers do disappear and cannot be traced, we always view any credit as theirs and no matter how much time passes, if they come forward and we can identify and outstanding credit, we will return it to them”. SSE also would like to reiterate that “we’re happy to work with anyone who has legitimate suggestions for how we can find customers more easily and efficiently.
Ofgem has however reached an agreement with the “big six” energy suppliers by issuing automatic refunds via direct debit when customers are in credit.