MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis said “that smells wrong to me” in the face of massive price surges with around a third of energy customers hit with hikes of 100% or more
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Direct debit payments have at least doubled for one in four energy users, research claims.
British Gas and Octopus are among the firms singled out by furious customers in a survey.
Energy prices went up by 54% in April, but some direct debts went up 100%. Money expert Martin Lewis, left, said: “That smells wrong.”
Households already buckling under the cost of living crisis are facing soaring direct debts for energy bills.
But one in four customers claim theirs have at least doubled, despite being on a price cap and in credit.
A survey by MoneySavingExpert.com found firms including British Gas were among those users complained about.
Watchdog Ofgem, which allowed suppliers to increase prices by an average of 54% at the start of April, has vowed to look into the claims.
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said: “That smells wrong to me. They should only be seeing rises in line with the price cap, 45% to 65%.
“Fixed monthly direct debit is how up to 80% of those in England, Scotland and Wales pay for energy bills.
“Yet for months I’ve heard from people shocked to be told their direct debits are increasing two or threefold.”
Questions were already being asked about whether some suppliers had jacked up direct debts.
Last month Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said there were “troubling signs” of payments being hiked “by more than is necessary”.
British Gas customers made the most number of complaints about direct debts rising.
The average increase was 72%, with a third saying theirs had at least doubled.
The average rise for Octupus customers was said to be 80%, with 32% claiming their payments had more than doubled.
For Shell Energy, 30% said direct debit payouts had doubled, with the average increase being 70%.
And in the survey, conducted between April 26 and May 3, 27% of E.on users said theirs had gone up by 100% or more, with the average at 71%.
Mr Lewis urged affected customers to challenge their payments and if suppliers refuse to lower them then complain to the Energy Ombudsman.
He added: “Under firms’ license conditions you have a right to a fair direct debit.”
His website has passed the survey findings to Ofgem and ministers.
The watchdog said: “Protecting energy customers is our top priority.
“We recently wrote to suppliers to alert them that we are commissioning a series of reviews to ensure, amongst other things, they are handling direct debts fairly.
“Once Money Saving Expert provide us with this data, we will examine it as part of this crucial review.”
British Gas insisted it did not recognize the figures but said it was hard to comment without examples.
It added: “Help and support is available.”
Octopus energy said: “The survey data is wrong. For example, they claim 32% of our customers saw direct debts double.
“The reality is that it’s 15% and therefore less than half of that.”
Shell Energy said the rises in direct debit payments “can in part be explained by the influx of accurate meter reads which changes the usage on which we make the calculations”.
Labor’s Lisa Nandy accused No10 of a lack of support for households crippled by soaring energy prices.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.