Beginner's Guide To: Energy bills

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The Independent Online

How often do you open an energy bill, check the final figure and throw it away? Take the trouble to read it and it will help you watch the energy you use, making it easier to switch.

On the surface, your bill may seem a mishmash of abbreviations and jargon. But once you know what to look for, it will become much easier to understand.

What it all means

Take a dual fuel bill. The first page will usually summarise what you owe and for what period.

It will list your last payment and any balance – such as whether you still owe money from the last bill or if you overpaid. At the bottom of this simple breakdown will be the amount you now owe.

Digging deeper

Turn to the second page and things start to look more complicated, but the information is actually quite straightforward. Your gas and electricity will be listed separately, showing your previous and latest meter readings.

After that, it will state the kilowatt hours (kWh) used, the amount you pay per kilowatt-hour, and the total charges for your gas and electricity.

Watch out

The bill will state whether it is estimated (E) or based on a reading. If you see an (A), that means the energy firm has read the meter, while (C) means the bill is based on your own reading.

If you have had several estimated bills, there's a good chance you've been over or underpaying. Read your meter as soon as you can and tell your supplier to make sure there are no nasty surprises ahead.

All change

Ofgem, the energy watchdog, is concerned about the complexity of energy bills. By December next year at the latest, every customer should have received an annual statement to help them more clearly assess what they pay.

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