PS1BN 'FUEL BILL SCAM' EXCLUSIVE.
Byline: Stephen Hayward and Dominik Lemanski
GREEDY energy firms have been attacked for hanging on to around PS1BILLION in direct debit overpayments that customers are entitled to have back.
Households pay a fixed amount a month but many pay too much in summer, when usage is lower.
This has led to credit balances building up in customer accounts. But some energy giants fail to automatically refund overpayments and rake in interest from them instead.
Campaigners claim it amounts to free borrowing.
Marc Gander, of the Consumer Action Group, said: "They are on a nice little earner. If you're hardpressed and you know you have a couple of hundred pounds wrapped up with an energy company, it's tough."
Research by the price comparison site Gocompare found that 10.4 million households were still owed an average PS95 in overpayments, despite new rules designed to stop credit balances building up.
Supplier So Energy defended the practice, saying customers can claim refunds but monthly direct debits "give us the certainty we need to keep prices low".
E.on, SSE and British Gas refund customers annually who are PS5 in credit and have a current meter reading. EDF said customers can request a refund.