Thousands of households risk being overcharged for their energy bills after major suppliers’ websites crashed amid a race to submits meter readings on the eve of the price cap increase.
Energy users have been urged to send a meter reading today if they want to avoid being overbilled when prices jump from April 1.
But thousands of users have reported issues with the online services of major suppliers this morning, including SSE and EDF Energy. British Gas, E.On and Octopus Energy are also among the online sites to suffer outages, blocking worried families from logging in to update their details.
Submitting a reading today would ensure that energy companies have an accurate picture of households’ usage before the higher rates come in, Gillian Cooper of Citizens Advice said. It will also make it easier for customers to contest bills they think are wrong.
Some British Gas customers feared they had become the target of fraudsters after receiving texts asking for meter readings, but the supplier confirmed they were real. “It is an easy way for a customer to submit a reading today without needing to log on,” the firm said.
Comparison website Uswitch advised customers to leave it as late in the day as possible before they send a reading to ensure that as much of their energy use as possible is calculated under the old rates. The energy price cap will rise in April, pushing bills for the average home up from £1,277 to £1,971 a year, a rise of 54pc.
However, households have been blocked from doing so due to these outages. Now, they risk missing out on the deadline. Some websites, including Shell Energy, are entirely down, while others such as British Gas have issued a notice of “technical issues”.
These website outages tend to be due to dramatically increased web visits, Octopus Energy said. A spokesman said the company had seen “incredible traffic” but that it had added additional capacity to bolster servers.
However, customers still have another two days to submit their readings with Octopus, he said. “It’s worth noting that Octopus Energy’s price change will actually not come into effect until midnight on April 2. If customers are keen to give us a meter reading to coincide with the change, the best day to collect it is on the April 2.”
Those who take a photograph of their readings on Saturday will have a week to submit it via their online account, he added.
Gareth Kloet of GoCompare, the price comparison website, said: “It’s absolutely worth taking a meter reading before these increases come into effect. By doing this, it simply means your energy company cannot charge you at the higher rate for any units that have been used prior to April 1.”
EDF Energy, E.On, Shell Energy and SSE have been approached for comment. British Gas said no customers would be left out of pocket as a result of this system issue.
A spokesman at Shell Energy said their teams were “working hard to keep the website online” as they deal with a surge in the number of customers trying to access their account.