Power firms are owed far more money from former customers as a result of unpaid debt, the trade body for the energy industry said.
Regulator Ofgem today called on the Big Six – British Gas, EDF Energy, SSE, npower, ScottishPower and E.ON – to pay back £400 million they hold from former customers but Energy UK insists suppliers do try and make sure people’s money are given back to them.
A spokesperson said: “Energy companies try and make sure individual customers’ money gets back to its rightful owners. However, more commonly energy companies are owed many times more money by people who leave unpaid debts behind them.
“Although companies are working to return money where there are credit balances sometimes former domestic customers provide no new contact details so suppliers don’t know how or to whom they can return the money. The most common reasons energy companies end up holding funds are when the bill payer has moved home or when a customer dies and suppliers have no record of the next of kin.”
Energy supplier npower claims it is owed over £80 million on average every year whereas it owes customers around £2.5 million.
A spokesperson added: “We do everything we can to make sure our customers get the money that’s owed to them – and there is no time limit for them to claim this money back. It can take a considerable amount of time to reunite customers with their money and unfortunately it is not always possible to do so.”
Other Big Six energy firms also insist they are doing all they can to immediately provide a full refund to customers for any sum they owe.
Ian Peters, Managing Director of Residential Energy at British Gas said: “We go well beyond our legal obligations to actively seek out customers owed money in order to return it, contacting them by phone, letter and after multiple attempts we also use specialist agencies to help trace customers to refund the credit.”
Energy firm SSE added: “Although sometimes customers do disappear and cannot be traced, we always view any credit as theirs and, no matter how much time passes, if they come forward and we can identify an outstanding credit, we will return it to them.”