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The Great Utility Bill Swindle

Average UK direct debit customer £125 in credit

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Given the obstreperous tone of letters from the UK's utility companies should you owe them more than around £2.50, direct debit customers may be surprised to learn that they are on average £125 in credit on their gas and electricity bills - 20 per cent of the annual mean spend.

So claims Energyhelpline.com, an "independent price comparison service", which adds that this outrage affects 15 million electricity consumers and 11 million gas users who automatically pay a fixed amount every month.

The total bounty to the utility companies is £1.7bn - largely due to the discrepancy between payments and consumption between less energy-hungry June and September.

There is, however, some electric light at the end of the gas pipe: you can ask for the difference to be refunded at any time and Energyhelpline.com reckons that the best way to find out if you're in credit is to swap suppliers. You can then adjust your monthly payments to more adequately reflect your consumption - plus recoup your overpayment at the same time.

Whether this is delivered in hard cash, enormous canisters of gas or thousands of AAA batteries is not noted. ®

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