ENERGY customers have been left furious after being hit with surprise bills saying they owe money.

A meter glitch at Boost, part of Ovo Energy, has landed some households on prepayment meters with debts of as much as £700.

Affected customers have received emails and letters from the energy firm which supplies around 200,000 homes, telling them they must pay back the cash after being incorrectly charged.

The message said: "Unfortunately, when our prices went up in October, your meter wasn't updated due to a technical problem.

"This means that we were charging you less than we should have for a short period of time. We're sorry about this."

"You'll need to pay the difference in price for energy you've used. But we're reducing this amount by 10% to say sorry for the mistake."

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Customers on prepayment meters top up using a key, card or app for energy they use, rather than being billed later on.

They are often installed in low-income households to help manage their bills better.

Mother-of-two Suzanne Ekpenyong, 41 has been left furious after the energy company placed a £307 debt on her meter.

Suzanne who's self-employed and lives in Woodford in East London said: "I was absolutely fuming to receive a letter in the post explaining that Boost has added a £300 debt to my meter because of their own mistake."

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The move means that every time Suzanne tops up, £5 is taken to pay off the debt.

She usually tops up £20 on her electricity meter each week but from now on only £15 will be used to go towards her electricity usage.

The remaining cash will automatically go towards paying the money back.

It's another unexpected cost for the family during the cost of living crisis.

Suzanne will need to budget for the repayment plan which is in place until July 2024.

She said: "I'm fed up with Boost's utter incompetence. It's absolutely ridiculous that the debt was automatically applied plus the repayment plan which I didn't consent to."

"What's even more frustrating is that some Boost customers affected by the glitch haven't been placed into debt."

She told The Sun she plans to complain to the energy firm but is also worried about the extra stress of "waiting on the phone for hours just to get through".

Ovo Energy has not said how many people are affected but has confirmed which customers are being asked to repay the money.

Vulnerable customers and those who already had an existing debt of more than £500 with Ovo have had the debt waived.

But customers less than £500 in debt need to repay what they owe due to the glitch.

Complaints on social media suggest that hundreds of customers have been affected by the technical issue – but some have not been asked to pay the money back.

An Ovo Energy spokesman said: "A small number of customers were paying too little for a short period due to a technical issue.

"We're here to help any customers who would like additional support with an affordable plan."

Back-billing rules set out by the energy regulator Ofgem state that suppliers can charge households for gas or electricity used less than 12 months ago if they have not been correctly billed for it.

But suppliers must work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford under Ofgem rules.

If you're affected by the Boost glitch and are unhappy with the prepayment plan you are entitled to ask for:

  • A review of your payments and debt repayments
  • Payment breaks or reductions
  • More time to pay
  • Access to hardship funds
  • Advice on how to use less energy
  • Priority Service registration – a free support service if you are in a vulnerable situation.

If you want to make a complaint Boost customers can send theirs to [email protected] or complain over the phone by calling 0330 102 7517.

What to do about a billing error

If you think you've been billed in error you can complain to your supplier.

It's best to tackle the issue straight away, otherwise it can snowball and get even more expensive and complicated.

Anything from account mix-ups, faulty meters and IT errors could mean you’re being overcharged.

You're protected by backbilling rules, so you can't be charged for gas or electricity used more than 12 months ago.

Similar to financial services firms, energy companies have to have a complaints procedure for customers to follow.

You should first complain to your energy provider.

When you make a complaint, make sure you follow this so they have the information they need to resolve the issue.

Simply explain what the problem is and what you want your supplier to do about it.

Check your energy supplier's website for an explanation of how to launch a complaint.

Energy suppliers have up to eight weeks to come to tell you their decision on the complaint.

If you can't reach an agreement with your supplier after eight weeks, you can ask for a "deadlock letter", which enables you to take your case to the free Energy Ombudsman.

How do I take my complaint to the Energy Ombudsman?

The Energy Ombudsman may be able to help if you have a complaint about an energy or communications provider.

Before you can submit your complaint to it, you must have logged a formal complaint with your provider and worked with the firm to resolve it.

You must also have received a so-called deadlock letter, where the provider refers your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.

You can also complain if you haven't had a satisfactory solution to your problem within eight weeks.

The Energy Ombudsman then bases its decision on the evidence you and the company submit.

If you choose to accept its decision, your supplier then has 28 days to comply.

The Ombudsman's decisions are binding on the energy company.

If your supplier refuses to follow the instruction, the Ombudsman may get in touch with Ofgem to remedy the situation – but there's no set time period for escalating issues to the regulator and it's not up to the customer.

If an individual chooses not to accept the Ombudsman's final decision, they lose the right to the resolution offer.

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Customers still have the right to take their complaint further through the courts.

But remember this can be a costly and lengthy exercise, so it's worth thinking carefully before taking this step.

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