The energy industry is highly regulated — and rightly so — to protect consumers, suppliers and other industry bodies from being taken advantage of, or from trying to cheat the system. There’s lots of rules and processes that we all have to adhere to.
One of those processes is what happens to your opening meter reading.
As soon as we receive your reading through your app, we send it away to a go through an independent validation process. Your readings are checked against your previous readings, then sent back to us and on to your old supplier. That’s it — we’ll open your account to that reading, and your old supplier will close to it.
Sometimes, the readings fail the validation process (see below for more detail on how this is calculated). In this case, the validation process will estimate a reading, and send that back to us and on to your old supplier.
Both suppliers have to use this reading, by the terms of our energy licence. If it’s outside a certain tolerance, we can raise a ‘reading dispute’ and ask for it to be changed to the reading you supplied. That’s one of the reasons we ask for a photo of your meter with your reading — in the hopes that it will speed up the dispute.
This process can be frustrating, for us but especially for our Members. The timescales are long (up to six weeks for validation, and up to 12 weeks for disputes :0) and Members are often sent back and forth between suppliers by service agents. The most important thing to remember is that you won’t be charged for the same energy twice — both suppliers have to use the same reading, whether it matches yours or is an estimate.
How is the estimated reading calculated?
The validation process looks at your property’s last validated meter reading (from when you were with your old supplier), and the number of days between this reading and your opening reading.
Then, it looks at your estimated yearly usage, converts this to a daily figure, and multiplies this daily figure with the number of days between your last reading and your opening one.
This is the estimated reading calculation:
Last validated reading + expected daily usage * number of days.
When calculating your estimated reading, the validation process also produces what is called a ‘maximum estimate’. This is done by multiplying your estimate by an industry standard of 2.5.
(This is a simplified version of a much more complication calculation! You can see the full calculation on page 23 of this document).
If your opening reading is the same as the estimate, or falls between your last validated reading and the maximum estimate, your reading will be used.
If your opening reading is lower or higher, the estimate is used instead.
This process can take up to six weeks. If you’ve been paying Direct Debits to both energy suppliers during this time, your old supplier will refund you if they have a credit balance.
Remember that both new and old supplier have to use the same reading, so you won’t pay twice for the same energy.
If you haven’t received your final bill within six weeks of switching, or you haven’t received a refund that you are due, you’ll need to speak to your previous supplier directly. Suppliers are unable to transfer outstanding credits or debits to other suppliers.
We know that the process is frustrating, complicated and takes too long. With the widescape adoption of smart meters - which send readings to your energy supplier every 30 minutes - switching will be much faster, and much more accurate.
This FAQ was written by @Marc with the help of Members @woz @Jon1 @Oakbank @Lenny @David j
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Check out our smart meters frequently asked questions here.