Energy firms criticised as websites crash in rush to submit meter readings
Consumer groups have criticised energy firms for failing to avert a widescale crash of their websites as customers rushed to submit meter readings ahead of Friday’s price jump.
Customers reported issues logging in to supplier websites including British Gas, EDF, E.On, SSE, So Energy and Octopus Energy from early on Thursday.
Experts including Citizens Advice and MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis had urged householders to submit meter readings to avoid being overcharged for their usage after the 54% increase to Ofgem’s price cap comes into effect on Friday.
Citizens Advice head of energy policy Gillian Cooper said: “This is a frustrating situation for customers, many of whom are already incredibly worried about how they’ll cope with rising bills.
“We know some energy companies have put in measures to prepare for a surge of people sending meter readings, but clearly it hasn’t been enough.”
Which? consumer rights editor Adam French said: “Energy companies should have been prepared for higher numbers of customers getting in touch and should support any customers trying to submit their meter readings today.”
Energy firms described the situation as “unprecedented” and sought to calm customer anxiety by stressing that they can submit a date-stamped photo of their readings at any point over the next week.
Octopus Energy said: “It looks like every large energy provider’s website is down today – this is usually due to dramatically increased web visits.
“If customers make a note of, or take a photograph of, their readings on Saturday April 2 they have a week to submit it to us via our online account or email, so needn’t worry if they can’t get it to us that day.”
A spokesman for Energy UK, the trade association for the industry, said: “We know that some suppliers are experiencing issues with their websites due to the volume of customers submitting meter readings.
“Suppliers are offering alternative ways of submitting readings so we’d recommend customers try those. Customers with smart meters do not need to worry as their readings are automatically sent to their supplier.”
A message on the British Gas website told customers it was facing “some technical issues we’re trying to resolve as quickly as possible”.
EDF Energy, So Energy and E.On customers were also unable to log in.
Households will see the biggest rise in the cost of energy in living memory from Friday when bills increase by 54%, or almost £700, to just under £2,000 a year.
The energy price cap for those on default tariffs who pay by direct debit is rising by £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 from April 1.
Prepayment customers will see a bigger jump, with their price cap going up by £708, from £1,309 to £2,017.
Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action warned the cost of heating an average home has now doubled in 18 months, leaving 6.5 million households unable to live in a warm, safe home across the UK.
Chief executive Adam Scorer said: “Quality of life for millions of people will plummet. Warm homes, cooked food, hot water, clean clothes – all cut back or cut out. Debt will spiral. Physical and mental health will suffer.”
An Ofgem spokeswoman said: “We know this rise will be extremely worrying for many people.