Millions of British consumers who pay their household bills by direct debit are in line to receive a refund from their energy suppliers, after it was announced yesterday that five of the 'Big Six' will pay money back to those who are in credit.
A recent investigation revealed that, with 13 million British households paying a fixed sum by direct debit each month, many are overpaying during the low-usage summer months, yet energy companies simply keep hold of the cash, which is estimated to be up to £2 billion.
Industry experts concluded that firms were thereby making up to £36 million a year in interest. Consumer anger led to a summit between energy firms and ministers back in November. Now five companies have agreed to refund any account that is in credit by more than £5, and to review customer accounts every six months.
Energy minister Greg Barker told the Daily Mail: "This is an excellent result for consumers worried about energy prices, and this is a good step towards restoring trust in the majority of companies. We have still a lot more work to do, but this shows Coalition ministers are capable of delivering."
So far, the only one of the Big Six not to have agreed to refunds is npower, and Mr Barker encouraged consumers to "vote with their feet" and switch suppliers if the firm refused to follow the example of its competitors.
A spokesman for npower told the Mail: "We're looking at this suggestion but we need to be sure it reflects what our customers want. Our research strongly suggests customers want to be given a choice between a full refund today and keeping their direct debit payments down tomorrow."
He added: "However, we do automatically refund credit balances of over £60, and customers in credit can request and receive a refund at any time."
What do you think? Would you prefer to keep your direct debit payments down, or receive refunds when you are in credit? Leave your comments below...