What the three letters on your energy bill really mean – any it could save you hundreds


ENERGY bill prices have rocketed, with many families struggling to keep up – but understanding your energy bill could help you to cut costs.

Households are set to be hit once more by rising energy bills when the price cap jumps again in October.

Understanding your energy bill could save you hundreds of pounds

Ofgem’s boss warned that the price cap could be set to somewhere in the region of £2,800 – up from the current £1,971.

Its a blow to customers who are already struggling to pay their bills.

And it doesn’t help that energy bills are difficult to understand – but getting to know what all the information means can save you money in the long run.

If you take a look at your energy bill, you will see one of three letters – either a C, E or an S – and these tell you how you bill has been calculated.

S stands for smart meter and you will see this if you have one installed in your home.

Smart meters are designed so that you no longer need to send energy suppliers traditional meter readings – the device does all the leg work for you and it means your bills should be more accurate.

If you have a C on your bill, it means that you have supplied a meter reading to your energy company and this is how your bill has been calculated.

If you don’t have a smart meter, this is the best option as it means you are being bill on the energy you have actually used.

And an E means the energy company has estimated your usage.

This means you could be paying under or over the odds each month, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not being overcharged.

Supplying a meter reading will give you a more accurate picture of your energy usage, as well as making sure you are only charged for the exact amount of energy you’ve used.

But you’ll want to make sure you’re reading your meter right, so you’re billed the correct amount.

You should also check your supplier has got all the right info from you so you don’t have to fork out more than you need.

Giving regular meter readings once a month should help you to avoid this.

How to challenge your bill if you think it’s wrong

Suppliers are allowed to increase customers’ direct debits, but any rise should be in line with a household’s usage.

You usually get 10 days’ notice before your monthly direct debit goes up, too.

And the price cap is in place to stop energy providers overcharging as well.

Before you dispute your bill, you need to know your rights.

If you pay by direct debit, then this monthly amount should be “fair and reasonable”.

If you don’t think it is, you can complain to the company in the first instance.

If you’re not happy with the outcome you can take it to the independent Energy Ombudsman to dispute, but there are a few steps before you get to that stage.

Your supplier must clearly explain why it’s chosen that amount for your direct debit.

If you’ve got credit on your account, you have every right to get it back – although some experts recommend keeping it there through the summer, so your bills don’t go up in the winter when you use more energy.

Your supplier must refund you or explain exactly why not otherwise and the regulator, Ofgem, can fine suppliers if they don’t.

If you are disputing a bill, taking a meter reading is a must.

That way the company can’t rely on estimates, which may lead to you being overcharged.

If it’s lower than your estimate, you can ask your provider to lower your monthly direct debit to a more suitable amount.

Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert team says that if you find you’re always in credit, you should request the direct debit be lowered to reflect your actual annual usage and meter readings.

But beware that you don’t end up in debt later on with a bigger catch up bill at the end of the year from underpayments racking up.

If you don’t have success in negotiating a lower payment then you can put in a complaint.

You can usually get in touch with your provider by email, letter or telephone, but keep a record of contact that you make so you can reference it later if need be.

Charities like Citizens Advice have template complaints letters you can use to help with the process.

Meanwhile, free online tools from Resolver.co.uk can also help you track and manage a complaint step-by-step. 

Energy bill help if you’re struggling

There are schemes offered by suppliers, local councils, charities and the government that could help.

If you’re struggling with energy costs or other bills there are plenty of organisations where you can seek advice for free, including:

  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Step Change – 0800 138 1111
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060

You should speak to your energy supplier in the first instance as they have schemes in place to help with bills and arrears, including hardship funds and grants.

Your local council may also be able to help with cash and grants if you are struggling with bills through the Household Support Scheme – but there are just days left to get the current funding so be quick.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he was extending the fund in his Spring Statement, and the fresh £500million will be available from April, though the exact date will depend on where you live.

The winter fuel payment scheme, where those getting the state pension can get between £100 and £300 to offset the cost of keeping their homes warm.

Low income households can get £25 a week to help with energy bills during the winter thanks to the cold weather payment scheme too.

The warm home discount scheme means you can a £140 payment that goes toward your heating costs but applications are now closed until next year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £150 council tax discount for millions of Brits in an attempt to ease the cost of living crisis. That will start being paid from April.