What is “back billing” – and can you refuse to pay?

4 min read
May 22, 2024

If a gas or electricity supplier believes that a consumer has not been accurately billed for the energy they’ve used, they may send what is known as a “back bill.” 

This bill will be intended to cover a period where energy has been used but not yet charged for. 

If you get a “back bill” – sometimes called a “catch up” bill – from your supplier, it may be a bit of a nasty shock. It may also seem unfair – especially if the company has not been staying on top of collecting accurate meter readings or have incorrectly calculated your monthly charges. 

Thankfully, Ofgem has some rules specifically designed to protect UK consumers from excessive back billing. In this article, we will explain these rules on back billing – and what to do if you receive one. 

New rules on back-billing

In March 2018, Ofgem announced the decision to protect consumers from lengthy back-bills. They have essentially banned suppliers from issuing domestic and microbusiness customers with back-bills for energy used more than 12 months before the date on the bill. 

Receiving a huge charge which you didn’t know was coming can be a nasty surprise. Ofgem’s decision aims to protect consumers from the shock of back-bills – which can cause significant distress. It also wants to further incentivise suppliers to engage with their customers and get accurate meter readings.

How do they protect you? 

Ofgem’s rules on back billing set out when a supplier can charge you for any shortfalls in payment for energy you’ve used – and when you can refuse to pay.

These rules stipulate that you cannot be charged for energy used more than 12 months ago if:

  • You’ve not had an accurate bill for it before, even though you asked for one.
  • You have not been informed about any charges due via a statement of account before.
  • Your Direct Debit amount was previously set too low to cover any charges due. 

While it is up to suppliers to adhere to these rules – and make them clear in their contract terms and conditions – Ofgem’s guidance also underlines how consumers are also responsible for paying for the energy used in any period not covered by the back billing rules. So if you suspect that you are not getting accurate bills or meter readings, you must ensure that you chase up their supplier.

There are some exceptions to back-billing rules – which do not apply if you have “acted unreasonably”. This includes: 

  • If you prevent your supplier from billing you accurately. This would be something like blocking access to your meter or refusing to provide your own readings when they are requested.  
  • If you ignore repeated requests for payment from your supplier. 
  • If you are stealing electricity or gas. 

Actions like these by energy customers are probably very rare occurrences. However, the struggle to pay bills is a common issue for many UK consumers today. If you’re worried about being able to pay, there is help and support available. Check out Ofgem’s guidance on what to do if you cannot afford your energy bills.

What to do if you receive a back bill?

If you receive a back bill for energy used more than 12 months ago, the first thing is to take a deep breath – remember that you will be protected by Ofgem and that there is help and support available. 

You should then contact your supplier and let them know that you have received a request to pay for energy used more than  12 months ago – and that this goes against sector regulations. 

Once you have reported the issue the company should investigate and swiftly refund any money taken in error, which could be all or part of the bill.

You’ll find your supplier’s contact details on their website, or on your energy bills. If possible, it is probably best at this point to report and explain the issue via phone call. 

If, after you have raised the issue, the company push back, this is the time to get in touch with Ofgem for their support and advice. 

When should you complain?

Sometimes you may receive a back bill by accident – your first step should always be to report it to your supplier so that they can correct the mistake. 

However, if your energy supplier continues to ask for payment for a period covered by Ofgem’s back billing rules, you should make a formal complaint. 

Resolver can help you complain about your energy supplier. So if you have decided to make a complaint go ahead and use our bespoke back billing template to get the issue sorted.  


If you have any thoughts on this topic, or any other consumer issues you would like us to cover, feel free to get in touch with us at .

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