Before the outbreak, I would go into the bank or the post office to pay my energy bills. The walk there gave me the chance to exercise, and it was nice to see other people while I was out. Now, during lockdown, I am stuck in the house, so I have got to change my form of payment – I am posting a cheque, or I can phone up and use a credit card to pay the bill.
I have had significant issues with the meter reading process during this period of social distancing. Instead of coming to the house and reading the meter, my energy company have estimated my bill. In the last quarter I got a very high bill – it was over £760 for the last few months which is around twice the amount I usually pay for three months of electricity.
When I got this huge bill I queried it, and I was told it had gone up because of this estimate the energy company had done. In order to get billed correctly, the energy company would have to come inside the house and read the meter. Speaking to the company, we could not agree on a safe way for them to come and read my meter during the present time, and I was unable to send them a photo of my meter, so I have paid this large bill. I am told that they will correct this overpayment when I am able to submit a meter reading but I will have to wait and see.
In the last quarter I got a very high bill... around twice the amount I usually pay
I don’t feel that the Government or the company have offered any support with this issue. I assume that there are people in similar circumstances who haven’t got support either. There may well be a lot of older people who have this problem and stay quiet about it because they do not want to reach out for help. As an older person, it can be difficult to know whether you are getting a good deal or not with your bills, and this is even worse at the moment.
I now plan to look for an energy supplier who will give me a better price and more support and will be looking into the conditions for switching suppliers. I am glad that I feel confident in arranging to change supplier and know that I can make sure I get the best deal, but there are other people who might feel less confident about changing suppliers. Charities can have a role in identifying and representing these people, as having someone to offer advice or support with dealing with an energy company can be really helpful.
I assume that there are people in similar circumstances who haven’t got support either.
There need to be more discussions between the charities who hear from older people and the politicians who can influence this issue and the energy companies themselves. It is time for a serious conversation about what practical assistance can be offered to older people overpaying now and after the outbreak.
Independent Age has advice on ways to save money, which includes information on how to get the best deal from energy suppliers. You can also find ways to get advice on energy-related problems here.