Octopus Energy calls on Ofgem to clamp down on payment penalty for careful customers
- UK energy customers now charged up to £254 extra if they don’t pay by direct debit, more than three times what it was (£84) in April 2021
- Yet 75% of customers who pay by cheque, cash or card think they pay the same or less than someone paying by direct debit
- Pensioners are particularly affected by this issue, with almost a third of them using these methods to pay for their energy
- Octopus urges Ofgem to clamp down on this sooner than their proposed review date of winter 2024/25
- Until then Octopus recommends that customers of old energy companies move from cash, cheque or card to direct debit
London, 30th January 2023 - Octopus Energy, the UK’s third largest energy supplier, calls on Ofgem to end payment penalties sooner for standard credit customers, after it confirmed that it wouldn’t make changes until 2024/25.
Today the company releases evidence showing that three quarters of customers (75%) who pay by cash, cheque or card for their energy don’t realise they are being charged much more than customers who pay by direct debit*.
The research also shows that this charge disproportionately affects older people. Almost a third (28%) of people – the largest cohort – who pay via cheque or cash are over 65.
Non-direct debit payment methods do incur additional costs to energy suppliers. When the energy regulator Ofgem introduced the energy price cap in 2019, it calculated that this extra cost was £81.
This premium has ballooned in line with soaring energy costs – energy suppliers are now allowed to charge a typical customer £254 a year for not paying by direct debit.
This means that customers who pay by cash, cheque or card are paying more than £20 a month extra for their energy, compared to those who pay by direct debit.
With around 5 million electricity customers** affected, this means British households could be paying around £1.3 billion a year more than they need to***.
The scale of the issue is huge – the surcharge is almost double the social and environmental levies which the government announced they would remove from bills to help tackle the cost of energy.
This is an extra burden on low income and elderly households, which many don’t even know they’re paying. Yet, these are exactly the groups of people Ofgem’s energy price cap aims to protect.
Octopus Energy is pushing back on this inflation, calling on Ofgem to slash this uplift as soon as possible. It is also urging everyone who pays by receipt of bill or standard credit to move to direct debit if they can to avoid unnecessary charges.
Despite the rise in cap, Octopus Energy chose to not pass on this surcharge to customers until October 2022, when it raised it to £80 per customer to cover the additional cost. Absorbing these costs on behalf of its customers has cost Octopus Energy £46 million since 2019.
Greg Jackson, CEO and Founder of Octopus Energy, calls on Ofgem to act urgently:
“Whilst the global gas crisis is beyond the control of the UK, Ofgem need to do all in their power to drive down the sinister, hidden costs creeping up on pensioners. Committing to review it only by the winter of 2024/25 is simply not soon enough.
“Suppliers do incur extra costs for other payment methods, but this surcharge has got out of hand and we’re asking Ofgem to review it as a matter of urgency - especially with the price cap rising again in April.
“It’s all the more pernicious for people who pay carefully on time, every time and think this gets them a fair deal. In reality they’re being gouged – and this practice must be stopped.”
Notes to editors:
Infographic can be downloaded here.
Note: The energy industry calls paying by cash, card or cheque for energy bills ‘Standard Credit’
**Government figures show there are 28.8 million total electricity customers in Britain. BEIS data shows 17% of electricity customers pay by standard credit. 17% of 28.8 million = 4.9 million
***Based on 5 million affected households x £254 overpayment each = £1,270 million
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About Octopus Energy Group
Octopus Energy Group is a global energy tech pioneer, launched in 2016 to use technology to unlock a customer focused and affordable green energy revolution. It is part of Octopus Group, which is a certified BCorp. With operations in 19 countries, Octopus Energy Group's mission is going global.
Octopus’s domestic energy arm already serves 4.9 million customers with cheaper greener power, through Octopus Energy, Bulb, Affect Energy, Ebico, London Power and Co-op Energy. Octopus Electric Vehicles is helping make clean transport cheaper and easier, and Octopus Energy Services is bringing smart products to thousands of homes. Octopus Energy Generation is one of Europe’s largest investors in renewable energy, managing a nearly £6 billion portfolio of renewable energy assets throughout the continent.
All of these are made possible by Octopus’s tech arm, Kraken Technologies, which offers a proprietary, in-house platform based on advanced data and machine learning capabilities, Kraken automates much of the energy supply chain to allow outstanding service and efficiency as the world transitions to a decentralised, decarbonised energy system. This technology has been licensed to supports 30 million customer accounts worldwide, through deals with EDF Energy, Good Energy, E.ON energy and Origin Energy.
In December 2021, Octopus Energy Group was valued at approximately $5 billion following investments from Generation Investment Management and Canada Pensions Plan Investments Board. Both investors back businesses that drive sustainability, promote green energy and tackle climate change. It was the company’s third major investment round since launching to the market.
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