How to get a refund on your energy (if you’re in credit)

You may have heard the news story from 2019 that 46% of UK households are owed money by their energy company. That’s almost a 50:50 chance that you could be owed some money to claim back.

But before you rush off to get that money, be warned it’s not quite a simple as that. Whether you should ask for a refund depends on a number of factors – most importantly the time of year and if you have a new energy contract. Let us explain.

Before we get stuck in, remember that the news story was based on research by energy switching service Uswitch. So, we are not talking utterly unbiased work from a consumer organisation, university, or government department. Yes, the research made a shocking headline: 13 million UK households are owed a total of £1.7 billion, but it’s only mind-boggling until you dig a little deeper.

The two kinds of energy account

Yes, you may be in credit with your energy company but this doesn’t mean you should claim your money back immediately. It all depends on which sort of account you are talking about. Specifically, is your account balance live or closed?

  • A closed account is one with a previous energy supplier
  • A live account is the one you have with your current energy supplier

You may have a closed account because you moved home or because you switched supplier. Let’s have a deeper look at your credit situation with a closed account and your live account.

Can I claim back credit from a closed energy account?

Yes! Your previous energy company should have given you back any money you had in credit when you closed your account – just as they would ask you to pay them any money you owe them – however, this doesn’t always happen. If you don’t use the company’s services any more and they still owe you money, you should claim it back.

In 2014, Energy UK (the body that represents the energy industry) announced the launch of the My Energy Credit campaign. This aimed to reunite customers with cash that is owed to them by their former energy company. It was estimated, at the time, that up to 3 million households were owed an average of £50 by their former energy supplier.

The campaign aimed to make people aware of the fact that they might be owed money. The helpline is now defunct, but you can still request your credit by contacting your energy company directly. You will need to have your old address and a proof of identity to hand when you call.

It is also possible to see how much you are in credit by checking online through the website of the energy supplier you’re using. British Gas is one of those companies where you can claim back credit online, though you’ll have to have up to date readings in order to get your money back.

Here are the contact details for the major energy companies:

SupplierOpening HoursPhone Number
British GasMon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm0333 202 9802
EDF EnergyMon-Fri, 8am-8pm, Sat 8.30am-2pm0800 096 9000 (landlines are free)
E.ONMon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-4pm0333 202 4856
npowerMon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-4pm0800 073 3000 landlines, 0330 100 3000 mobiles
Scottish & Southern Energy*Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-4pm0800 975 1662 (landlines are free)
Scottish PowerMon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8.30am-1pm0800 027 0072 landlines, 0345 270 0700 mobiles

*Includes: Atlantic, Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro, Swalec and M&S Energy): 0800 975 1662 (landlines are free)

When you should think twice before you claim back energy credit

If your energy company owes you money – in other words, if you are in credit – you have the right to claim it back at any time. However, this might not be the best course of action.

Many of us pay our energy bills by direct debit nowadays. This is good, because you get a better deal when you pay by direct debit. However, the way that direct debit works isn’t the same as we use energy, and this creates an issue with credit.

Direct debit transfers a set amount of money out of your account each month. However, you use different amounts of energy over a year – more in the winter and less in the summer. Your energy company tries to set your monthly bill at a rate mid-point between winter and summer, but this means that you will have a bit of credit for about half the year.

For example, say you pay your energy company £90 per month by direct debit, but in the summer you use only £60 worth of energy a month. Time to call them up and get back your precious spondulicks, right?

Maybe, maybe not. You may well use £120 worth of energy in the winter. Of course, you are welcome to get that credit back in the summer, but be sure that you don’t have large energy bills in the winter that you struggle to pay. Building up a bit of credit with your energy company allows for a bit of flexibility in the system and keeps your payments steady.

When you probably should claim back energy credit

We have seen that being in credit with your energy company does not necessarily mean that you should claim it back. However, there are occasions when you probably should.

  • You’ve moved into a new home: If you have an unexpectedly large bill, you may be using a lot less energy than the previous occupiers, but the energy company is basing your bill on their usage
  • Someone has left your household: You might find a surprisingly large drop in the amount of energy you use when someone moves out
  • You’ve ‘gone green’: You’ve insulated the loft and cavity walls, turned the thermostat down a smidgeon, bought a new energy efficient boiler, or applied any other energy saving measures.

My supplier refuses to credit me. Help!

Your energy supplier is obliged to refund any credit in full if you ask them. It can refuse to refund you if it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to do so. If you disagree with their thinking, you can complain to the Energy Ombudsman, the body who handle disputes between consumers and energy suppliers.