I don't think this has been altogether a good thing. The mails drop into my inbox announcing that my bill is ready to be read, but because that means going to their website and logging on, and because as it happens I seem to have a different combination of ID and password for each account, and because I can never remember them, and because payment is automatic so I don't risk being cut off ... (draw a deep breath) ... I tend not to bother looking at them.
Yesterday my carelessness came home to roost. I received a letter (a real space, hard copy letter) announcing that my energy suppliers were going to increase my monthly direct debit by £45 a month, as my account was in debt and my present payment was not enough to cover the amount of electricity and gas "we think you are going to use over the next twelve months". Panic! Stereotypical elderly, confused panic: "Help! I can't understand. I want my son. He'll have to come and sort it out for me. Oh-oh-ohhh!"
But then I pulled myself together and decided it was time to get to understand my energy bills, and to check out whether my consumption had really increased, in spite of having cavity wall insulation done in January. I wasted a lot of time noting down the payments I'd been making over the past couple of years, before realising that I should be checking consumption, rather than charges, which we know have gone up substantially here in the UK. And, to my chagrin, it appeared that my consumption had increased over the previous year.
But had it really? I noted that this latest quarterly bill had been based on an estimated reading, and on the strength of this they were also estimating the amount of energy they thought I would use in the coming year. Not good enough. Definitely not good enough. I would have to take readings myself and post them on line. The trouble is that crouching under the stairs where the meters are, is apt to bring on a spell of dizziness nowadays, and I prefer someone else to do it for me. But this was urgent. Needs must when the devil drives, as they say. I discovered that if I let my typing chair down to its lowest level, and wheeled it through to the hall - (or 'walked' it through like a baby walker!) - I could sit at the right level and only have to bend my head slightly to take the readings with a torch. (I wonder if I could have my meters moved? I bet it would cost a bomb.)
I posted my readings on line, and this morning I got an amended bill, knocking off £85 pounds, and withdrawing the notice that they were going to up my monthly direct debit by £45 a month.
I also discovered that my online account details show my average daily consumption of electricity and gas for the billing period, and also the figures for the same period last year, and it does appear to have gone down not up, which is what I was expecting, after having the insulation done.
So I'm really quite chuffed at the end of the day. And I did need to get to understand the billing system for myself. In future, I shall try to do my own readings each quarter and post them on line.