Some households have waited months before their outstanding credit balances are transferred from their failed energy supplier to their new provider.
The regulator has confirmed that there is currently no time frame for millions of customers who have switched from a failed supplier to an existing provider to obtain their credit.
This will be another problem for households, many of which have been struggling with energy bills since the crisis began last August, with some relying on credit to help them overcome the winter months.
One reader of This is Money, Ian, was affected after his supplier, Avro Energy, went bankrupt.
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He was with Avro Energy when it collapsed on September 22 last year, affecting 580,000 customers. At the time, his account was on credit, but he was still waiting for money.
He said: “My account was taken over by Octopus Energy and I made payments to it.
“However, each time I log in to my account, it says,” Once the Avro administrators issue your final bill, we will update your Octopus balance and your transfer will be complete. “
“It is now January and no details are available. It seems like a disproportionate amount of time. “
This is Money contacted Octopus, who contacted Ian the same day and transferred the credit amount.
She explained that the reason for the delay was often problems with the data provided by the collapsed company.
An Octopus spokesman said: “Today, we issued a final bill to customers to complete the transfer of his Avro credit to his Octopus Energy account. His last account is now in his inbox, and we’ve added his Avro credit to his Octopus account balance.
“The reason it took him longer to transfer was because he was part of a small group of customers who came to us with complex errors in their Avro data.
“More than 90 percent of Avro customers have been issued final accounts and are now set up and billed normally as Octopus Energy customers.
“The remaining 8 to 10 percent have more complex data or billing issues that we’re working on quickly, and we expect to have all remaining customers billed in the coming weeks.
“Customer data who left Avro before taking over Octopus Energy and to whom the credit was owed are now imported into our systems and refunds are processed in batches over the coming weeks.
“First of all, we will try to return all credits to the bank account used by Avro.
“The Avro transfer was the largest last resort supplier ever made and was delivered very quickly given the size and organization of the data we received.
“Our team worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to resolve these issues, and we have transferred all customer accounts and collections to us, and we are working with the Avro administrator to resolve any remaining errors in the coming weeks.”
Octopus Energy is working hard to return credit balances to new customers, as will many of the remaining vendors who have received thousands of customers in recent months.
Many consumers will be struggling with their energy bills right now and will be relying on credit
How does the Last Instance Vendor process work and how does it affect credit balances?
Those who find that their energy supplier has stopped trading are automatically transferred by Ofgem to a new provider as part of the Supplier of Last Instance process.
This has hit millions recently as more than 25 suppliers have collapsed, equivalent to half the market, due to soaring wholesale costs.
Last Resort suppliers work with administrators to determine the final credit balances of unsuccessful suppliers’ customers and these will be communicated to customers.
This process also ensures that all credit balances are protected.
However, how quickly this can be done depends on a number of factors, according to Ofgem.
This includes the quality of the data held by the failed vendor, the number of customers migrated in the vendor’s last resort meeting, the vendor-administrator agreement for the failed services, and any third-party services. providers to a failed supplier.
Ofgem stated that for this reason there was no deadline for completing the process.
A spokesman for Ofgem said: ‘Our priority is to protect consumers and we regularly work with all of the listed suppliers of last resort to monitor migration and customer acceptance to ensure that this is happening quickly and efficiently.’
Can consumers do something to speed up the credit recovery process?
As a result of the energy crisis, a number of problems have arisen where many households are unsure of what to do if their supplier shuts down.
One of the main questions was how people can get a loan back if they overpaid at their previous supplier.
Some people now wait months before their funds reach their new supplier and begin to think about what they can do to speed up the process.
This is particularly important at the moment, as many are facing ever-increasing energy bills at a time when wholesale costs are rising sharply.
Experts say consumers can turn to the ombudsman, but are unlikely to decide in their favor
Rory Stoves, an energy expert at Energy Helpline, said: “The guidelines don’t really offer a time frame for how long a company has to relocate customers, only that it should be done as quickly as possible.
“One of the mitigating factors is the number of customers that need to be relocated, and Octopus, for example, has inherited more than half a million customers, which is likely to be part of the problem.
“There is also the issue of the quality of the data that the supplier received from the company that went bankrupt and Avro Energy was not known to be great in this matter.
“These two factors are likely to cause many of the problems that some former Avro Energy customers are currently suffering from.
“If a customer is frustrated, the best solution is to open a formal complaint, and if no solution is found within eight weeks, they can turn to the ombudsman.
“However, given the current factors, it would be difficult for the ombudsman to conclude that Octopus Energy has nothing wrong – especially when they have taken in so many customers in difficult times.
“The new energy supplier will work hard to resolve the problem as soon as it is in its best interests, and while the current price cap and wholesale energy market exists, the customer will not lose anything.
“However, if it extends to April, then the customer may be eligible because he could lose significantly due to not being able to move when the price cap on April 1 is raised.”
All customers who are worried about their credit balance can contact their existing supplier to see if they can advise them on the time range.
Otherwise, it seems that households will only have to sit back to get their credit balances back.
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