Saturday 22 July 2017

Many of us are bamboozled by bills but we need to put time into understanding them

Consumers find energy bills are the most complex, according to a survey from price comparison site Switcher.ie. Stock Photo
Consumers find energy bills are the most complex, according to a survey from price comparison site Switcher.ie. Stock Photo
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Are you bewildered by your household bills? If you are, then rest assured, as you are not alone. Thousands of us are in the dark about how our electricity, broadband and mobile phone bills are calculated.

The beneficiaries of this situation are the providers, with householders losing out.

Mistakes are made - and made quite often. If you are not checking your bills every time you get one, then you are not going to know if you are being overcharged.

Consumers find energy bills are the most complex, according to a survey from price comparison site Switcher.ie.

One in four of those surveyed said they found electricity and gas bills hard to understand.

People are bamboozled by bills and have told researchers they are not confident that they could spot an error if they were over- or undercharged by their supplier.

Part of the problem is that fewer than half of energy consumers check their bills to see if they are correct.

Many people just look at the total due, rather than looking at how the amount billed has been calculated.

More than half of energy customers, and a similar proportion of broadband users, trust their suppliers to get the bills right.

However, for those who do check bills, the results show many are paying too much.

One-third of consumers claim to have been overcharged at least once last year. This suggests that thousands of householders are overcharged by millions of euro every year, according to Switcher.ie managing director Eoin Clarke.

But when there is a problem, it can take a long time to get it rectified. The survey found the average amount overcharged on these essential bills was €53 and refunds took more than five weeks on average.

Home-phone customers had to wait even longer, as it takes six-and a-half weeks to get their money back.

The research was carried out for Switcher.ie by Coyne Research, involving 1,000 online interviews with a representative sample of the population.

The solution is to check your household bills. Many people have bills emailed to them and are less inclined to check these than a bill that arrives in the post.

Open your bill as soon as it comes in. Check that you are on the unit rate you are supposed to be on or the correct tariff.

Otherwise, you are at the mercy of providers to get it right - and we know to our cost that this does not always happen.

And be prepared to switch provider to get a better deal.

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