Energy UK, trade association for the energy industry, revealed on Wednesday that customers may have wrongly forfeited 25p each time they top-up, and although many customers have been overcharged far less, certain households could have lost out on £110 since 2007.
Lawrence Slade, COO of Energy UK, issued a statement of apology and assured the public that providers know who has been fleeced and that refunds will be issued to all those affected.
Customers will be reimbursed via cheque, voucher or automatic credit, with energy suppliers forecasting that the average household affected by the overcharging has lost out on a shade over £10 a year.
The meters themselves failed to properly gauge the cost of the gas being used, highlighting the inadequacy of the care taken in the production of the meters, which in some cases were made back in 2007.
All pre-payment meters are fitted with a “calorific value” code to assess the amount of gas that requires payment, however this code was erroneously set in the faulty meters resulting in customers being charged for excess amounts of gas that hadn’t even been used.
In spite of this, Energy UK has said the meters need not be superseded by newer models, rather the current defective ones will be automatically reprogrammed during the start of 2015.
Landis+Gyr, who purport to be “world leaders” in smart energy provision are the manufacturers of the faulty meters, and have also been tasked with the production of the anticipated 16m “smart meters” to be rolled out by British Gas by 2020.
Steve Cunningham, Landis+Gyr’s chief executive for the UK & Ireland, said: “Landis+Gyr deeply regrets that this software fault has led to some prepayment consumers being overcharged for their gas. We are working closely with energy suppliers to implement a solution as quickly as possible.
Roughly half of all the customers adversely affected by the defective meters are British Gas customers, amid concerns raised by its parent company Centrica, over falling profits and a dwindling customer base over the majority of 2014.
Though such a disproportionate figure implies greater fault from the nation’s largest energy provider, they are amongst the majority of suppliers who have ruled out paying interest to any affected customers, with only EDF energy stating their intent to do so.
With a large percentage of households using pre-paid meters at the lower end of the income scale, outcry amongst the masses of energy customers is expected to be vociferous, with consumer group, Which?, leading the way.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: “This is yet another shameful example of energy companies failing their customers and one that has hit some of the very people who can afford it least.
“Suppliers need to fix this fault as soon as possible and fully reimburse – with interest – the hundreds of thousands of people who have been overcharged.
“We urgently need major reforms to fix this market and increase the low levels of trust we consistently see in energy firms.”
Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK said: “Suppliers are working hard to roll out a solution for an issue which has affected some pre-payment gas meters.
“The meters were manufactured with a problem where they over-collected from customers. However, the companies know who is affected and will be getting in touch directly to put the meters right and refund any money owed.
“The suppliers and the wider industry are all very sorry this problem has occurred but are already getting in contact with customers.
“Customers do not need to do anything – their supplier will get in touch but, if they are concerned, they just need to contact their energy company who will be able to help.”
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