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Almost a third of customers overcharged as 'errors' net energy companies millions

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A new survey suggests that almost a third of people are being overcharged by energy companies, with the average ‘error’ netting companies £121 extra a year and potentially adding up to more than £650m annually in illicit profit.

Energy companies have been in the spotlight after a sustained rise in energy bills that seems to bear little relation to wholesale prices. With Ed Milliband promising a freeze on bills, and a much publicised appearance by the ‘big six’ before MP’s recently, this latest news adds to the sense that customers are being ruthlessly exploited for profit.

Clare Welton, from the Fuel Poverty Action campaign group, spoke out against this pattern of ‘error’, noting that with energy bills so high, she would expect the "profiteers" to charge the correct amount.

"This daylight robbery disguised as sloppy service from energy companies is yet another blow to the idea that the Big Six, or any bodies that put profit before people's needs, are in any way suitable to be running our energy system," she said.

The survey of 2000 people around the country found that 30% of people polled had an error on their energy bill, and 28% had been overcharged by an average of £121.

40% of those being billed on paper noted an error, while the figure fell to 29% for those billed online.

"As a competitive industry, energy companies take customer service very seriously and all have committed to an industry code of practice to bill customers regularly and accurately. This applies to both paper and online billing," she said.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Price hikes of 36 per cent over the last three years, coupled with poor customer service, has compounded the lack of trust in energy firms as households struggle to afford to have a warm home.

"The Citizens Advice service deals with 90,000 energy problems each year. People are being hit with large back bills, find their bill unclear and direct debit customers are frustrated companies are holding onto their money when they're in credit. Energy companies need to put customers first and be much more transparent about where they make their profits."

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