‘My energy supplier refused to let me leave – even after my contract ended’

Moving energy ­supplier is meant to make life easier – not make you blow a fuse.

But switching providers has ­become the second most common reason for customers complaining to the ombudsman.

Bills are the number one cause of gripes but switching overtook customer service issues in the last three months of 2018 for the first time in two years.

In total the energy ombudsman Ofgem received 3,352 complaints about switching supplier in 2018.

These figures are reflected in my postbag and mailbox from ­disgruntled readers.

I felt trapped

Ashwin, from Lincoln, found a better energy deal on a switching website so he took steps to move.

But his supplier blocked the move because he owed them £52.10. Some energy suppliers have been known to block customers from switching when they have no right to do so. Ofgem has said it will clamp down on this.

But when a customer has an outstanding debt with a supplier, they are entitled to block a switch until such time as the debt is paid.

Another reader, Daniel, from Norwich, moved out of his property in 2015 and as far as he was aware, he had no outstanding bills.

So he was stunned to receive a letter at his new home last September that came from a debt collection agency. It told him he owed £89.62 for electricity used in 2014/15.

I advised Daniel that he did not need to pay this.

The back-billing rule prevents energy providers from charging customers for usage that they did not bill for promptly or did not ­calculate correctly.

In this respect, there is a 12-month deadline for catch-up bills to be sent out from the point that energy was used.

Lesley, a reader from London, landed a £235 electricity bill last December. It came as a shock as old bills had been at least half this. She contacted her supplier, but it said according to its system, the bill amount was correct.

My experience has been that it is very common for information on energy suppliers’ “systems” to be incorrect, resulting in errors.

Often you find they billed on an estimate, not an actual meter ­reading. In these circumstances, you should reject the bill and give the ­supplier an actual reading.

If you cannot resolve a dispute with them, you always have the option of filing a free ­complaint with the ombudsman.

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