If you are like me (and thousands of other consumers) you may see a small note somewhere in the statement that says they have put up your monthly direct debit payment. British Gas has put mine up from £37 per month to £59! - and this has been done even though we are in credit - and have been since this time last year. These rises are being forced upon us despite the fact that wholesale prices are falling; the utility companies are not passing on their savings to the consumer.
An MP (Peter Luff, Mid Worcestershire) has noticed that the utility companies appear to be using these overpayments by the public, to aid their cashflow - a sort of interest free loan on a gigantic scale! He has suggested OFGEM investigate. OFGEM says it has had no complaints about misude of the direct debit system! But as of 1st October 2008, they are no longer the authority to complain to - the government is in the midst of organising another consumer watchdog type of organisation!
Many consumers are considering going back to quarterly payments as the small incentive to persuade us to use the direct debit system is being cancelled out by the amount of interest lost by the consumer on money they could be earning interest on in their bank accounts!
You have to ask yourself - just how many frail, sick or elderly people are not able to check their statements and are unaware that their direct debit payments are going up when they are in credit with their suppliers! The utility companies are dipping deeper and deeper into our bank accounts and many of our most vulnerable members of society are on fixed incomes. This is a recipe for disaster. Isn't it time we all took a stand?
- Check your bill, if you are in credit contact your supplier and ask for a refund - it may just help with those Christmas bills!
- If you are not very much in credit, check how much energy you've used in the past year, average out that cost over 12 months and make sure you are not paying too high a monthly amount.If you consider that the latest hikes in the DD payment are too high -contact your supplier and ask for the payment to be reduced- or at least kept the same.
- Help any elderly friends, relatives and neighbours to do the same.
- If you have no success with your utility companies- contact the Energy Ombudsman and complain!
1000 Mail on Sunday readers tell power bosses: stop charging us for gas and electricity we haven't used - Read more HERE