Households are being urged to contact their previous gas and electricity supplier to grab a share of £153 million in unclaimed credit via a new website, but MoneySavingExpert.com has been helping users reclaim their money for a long time.
Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, says sometimes energy suppliers have difficulties tracking down former customers and repaying in-credit cash because they have switched supplier or moved home and not left a forwarding address.
But major energy suppliers, including the big six – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) – have announced the 'MyEnergyCredit' campaign and website to reunite former customers with cash they're owed.
The site will enable users to select their previous energy provider to find out more about the reclaim process. It lists the info you need to claim, such as proof of identity and proof of the address you're claiming for, and a link to providers' websites to start the reclaim process.
Suppliers are also introducing new minimum standards that should make the way credit balances are handled smoother, claims faster and minimise the amount of money left behind in future. However these are only voluntary standards, firms won't be bound by them.
Suppliers claim £153 million has accumulated over the past six years, with an average credit balance of £50/customer, while Energy UK says nine out of 10 customers receive their credit as normal when they leave a supplier.
But MoneySavingExpert.com believes this 'nine out of 10' figure is much lower, as in many cases suppliers keep schtum about customers being in-credit, so refunds aren't sent automatically (see our Reclaim energy bill refunds guide for the steps to get your money back).
In February this year, Ofgem called on the large energy suppliers to return at least £202 million of credit left in 3.5 million former customers' accounts. It found an "unacceptably large amount of money being held rather than being handed back to customers", and as a result of the investigation, it called for "decisive action" to return amounts to former customers.
'Energy companies operated a 'don't ask, don't get' policy'
Martin Lewis, founder and editor of MoneySavingExpert.com says: "The energy companies claim nine in 10 people get their credit back without asking, even if that's the case now, it certainly wasn't in the recent past.
"Anyone who's switched may be affected, not just those with address changes. Energy companies operated a "don't ask, don't get" policy for those in credit.
"While it's good to see energy firms actually get up off their backsides to try and sort this out – this new website offers nowt new. We've had 10,000's using our guide to do exactly the same for a long time. Until we get to the stage where the energy site lets you fill in your details, find out what you're owed and get it, it's relatively weak.
"In a perfect world energy companies would be pro-actively writing to every customer address they have where people are owed credit and paying out automatically. I don't hold out too much hope for that, but this is at least a step in the right direction."
How much in-credit cash can I get back?
From 2016, as part of the campaign launch, any money unclaimed after two years will go towards helping vulnerable customers. However, Energy UK says any valid credit will always be refunded to customers, however long ago you may have left the supplier or moved address.
So even if you reclaim after two years and the money has already gone to vulnerable customers, providers will still have to repay it to you if you ask.
What does Energy UK say?
Energy UK's chief executive, Angela Knight says: "This is a great campaign launched today and we will be ramping it up throughout the autumn. This money has been left behind and we are urging former customers to come forward and make a claim.
"Customers who think they haven't left a forwarding address or a final meter reading when they moved or switched should contact their old supplier."