Delays in your energy bills: you have rights

by Lorraine Williamson

Sometimes we feel powerless when facing issues with large energy companies: they change tariffs, charge whenever they want, no one addresses our complaints… If you’ve ever experienced this, remember that you have rights. The law reinforces your position as a consumer and you could even be compensated or not have to pay what you owed. Get informed!

The change in electricity tariffs in 2021 required the adaptation of meters and communication systems between distributors and retailers, causing many billing problems in different companies. Some were quickly resolved, while others persisted over time. In fact, even today, there are still households experiencing billing problems, making it difficult for consumers to manage their expenses and consumption properly. They go months without being billed, and suddenly receive a bill that combines all the delays, for a very high amount, forcing them to reach agreements with the company to reissue the bill, prorate the debt, and facilitate payment.

According to Spanish consumer organisation OCU, Endesa is the company that aggregates the most problems, but it is not the only one. The OCU has put together a list of little known consumer rights for such situations;

Three rights you may not know

The consumer organisation receives many inquiries on this subject, so here they remind you of three consumer rights in these situations.

Change your company: you’ll have free energy if they don’t bill you within 42 days

Don’t suffer any more delays in your bills: switch companies, and they will have to bill you within 42 days at most. If they don’t, you’ll be exempt from paying the arrears. The rule states: the Electricity Sector indicates as one of the rights of consumers “To receive the settlement of the account after any change of electricity supplier, within 42 days at most from the date of the change of supplier”.

  • If you have PVPC, you can switch to any of the regulated retailers and still maintain your PVPC rate.
  • Similarly, if you are in the free market and want to have a good fixed price, find the best alternative on the OCU comparison indicator and switch companies.

It is expected that your current company will make an effort to solve those delays within those 42 days, but if not… you can forget about those bills.

Cogesa Expats
Don’t accept payments of bills with consumption of more than one year

Retailers must issue bills at the frequency set out in their contracts, which is usually one or two months, but this is not always the case. Sometimes they undercharge or overcharge, and then try to quickly fix the situation by making the collection effective without consulting the customer on how they want to resolve it. But the user has rights.

The rule is clear: it states that “If amounts lower than those due have been billed, the difference for payment purposes may be prorated over as many monthly bills as months elapsed in the error, without exceeding the deferral or the period to be rectified of one year”. Therefore:

  • If you have been undercharged for months and are now billed for the total adjustment, you have the right to split the payment into as many monthly bills as months elapsed with the error.
  • If, on the other hand, the error has resulted in you being overcharged, they must refund the overcharged amount in the next invoice adding the legal interest on the money in force at the time of the refund.

You are entitled to compensation

Many times, frustration with billing problems is compounded by the lack of attention they demonstrate: they do not address complaints, no one takes care of the problem… but did you know that if they do not address you, they may have to compensate you? The same Royal Decree establishes the right of consumers to have “their complaints about the measurement of consumption, issued invoices, and undue disconnections addressed within a maximum period of 5 days”. And it establishes that in case of non-compliance, you will be entitled to compensation of €30.

If you don’t get good service, change companies

You are not obligated to stay with the same company, or with the same bank: if you are tired of complaining or of getting surprises or disappointments, it is time to change. Changing energy companies is, in practice, simple and risk-free: the quality of the electricity supply is guaranteed by the distributor, and the retailer simply bills the consumption made at the agreed prices.

OCU can help you verify if your rate is good and locate the best rates at any given time: OCU Energy Comparator

Also read: Negative electricity prices in Spain

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