Variable Monthly DD - Why is this not offered?

With all the pain, frustration and confusion created by the monthly direct debit scheme that results in credit being built up with Bulb, and the wildly inaccurate bills that some people receive thanks to broken estimating systems pegging the monthly DD amount way above what was needed. Why don’t Bulb offer a variable monthly direct debit?

In most industries you use something / buy something, you pay that amount for it. My water bill for example, I get a bill it says how much water I used and how much I’ll have to pay, they then collect that amount. Why does energy have to be made so complex and painful to manage?

So please Bulb - offer a variable DD option. Send me a bill, then a week later take the billed amount. If the monthly element is billed in advance and the usage billed for the previous month, that is fine, it is the way my mobile phone bill, water bill, and other usage based billing works. Why don’t you offer this?!?!

One problem I can envisage is that those customers who are on a low income will be landed with large bills during the winter period and possibly find difficulty in paying them. They may find it easier to pay a smaller but regular same payment throughout the year.

I think the issue is that Bulb in their wisdom have decided to move away from the time honoured system of working out the monthly DD by dividing the estimated annual cost by 12 (as per 4.4.4. in their T&Cs).

Instead Bulb have opted for a system where they hype the monthly DD during the winter period.

I moved from Bulb about 12 months purely on cost and the supplier I am with set their monthly DD at 1/12 of the estimated annual usage and in their words “paying a fixed amount each month means your account will fluctuate from being in credit in summer and debit in winter, we want to ensure that after a year, your account balance is close to £0

My supplier has kept to this approach and for a period of time after I joined them my account was in debit, currently it is in credit and will carry me through the winter possibly even going into a debit situation. I retain my own spreadsheet and can see that in 12 month time my account will be £4 in debit if I use the same amount of energy as in the last 12 months.

What you describe isn’t someone being poor / low income, it is someone not able to manage their finances. I do get that for some a fixed monthly amount is ideal as it helps them budget. However I’ve always felt in general the system makes it far more complex and confusing than it needs to be.

I’ve seen people see their monthly amount go up (because they’ve used more than their monthly amount was based upon) and said I need to change suppliers because this one is too expensive. Not realising that the one they are with is one of the cheapest by tariff, but instead just look at the monthly amount they’re paying.

I’m sure for some it works… but for me it really doesn’t. I hate it. Plus what Bulb have done recently is unacceptable. Pegging the DD rate way above my winter usage levels, despite being in credit by a reasonable amount. They should introduce a monthly bill that you gets taken by DD like every other service I buy.

Hi @Trikkitt

I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy with the current payment system. We do use direct debits as our default payment method for members with credit meters, however you might be interested to check out our full list of payment options.

We advise providing annual usage (kwh) when signing up to Bulb, as this is the best way to ensure your direct debit starts of on an accurate basis. Having a set monthly amount also makes things simpler for our members and helps with financial planning.

We also ask for readings at least every three months, to keep the account balance and payment amount accurate. This also means we can identify and resolve issues with incorrect estimated meter readings. Taking direct debits mean more of our members are able to pay for their energy in advance. This prevents the building up of unmanageable debit balances and helps us to buy our energy further in advance, something which helps us to keep our cost down.

We think this is the best way for most of our members to pay, but if this doesn’t work for you, please do get in touch about one of the alternatives.

The problem is that your “fixed” DD figures seem to be way way off and jump about without any real warning. You put up by DD by £50/month and the first I knew of it was the money leaving the account. For many that could cause substantial hardship. At the time of that happening my account was with you was in credit and the bill over £60 less than the money taken.

Why can’t I have a simple - here is a bill, we will take the value of the bill by DD? I don’t want to have to remember each month that I’ve got to make a manual payment because then there is always a risk that I’ll miss it. I just hate the amount of effort and confusion it makes to my bills that way you run the system.

My issue with that would be the thing that caused my direct debit amount to increase by almost 3 times.
It was a result of rogue readings/bad estimate/meter number switch screwup/bad-checks/system glitch/<insert reason here>.
I don’t think I’d have enough time to intervene if a direct debit was being taken from that bad reading.
Bulb say they have checks in place to stop things like the above happening, so in theory it shouldn’t cause an insane amount to be taken if a variable DD system was in place, but those checks didn’t catch the issue that caused my account to go wrong, and clearly haven’t caught other’s issues either.

They do state that they take payments in advance preferably, but you can pay in arrears if paying in advance isn’t an option for you.

I did have the same issue with their pay review but after I made my own table using my home’s annual usage figures + current payment amount + the readings I’ve submitted, their calculations do make sense.

They do notify you with plenty of advanced warning though about any payment changes (this is part of the Direct Debit Guarantee).

Hi @Trikkitt

I do understand what you have noted here. We don’t offer a ‘pay on bill’ system, to avoid a different amount being taken from your direct debit each month which may not be a true reflection of your usage. If for example someone does not submit readings, and their estimates increase one month, it will result in a high direct debit being taken with little warning. This would in turn complicate things further, so having a set direct debit, and an overall account balance helps make managing your account that little bit simpler!

Also, we always send an email to let you know if your payment amount is changing. This is sent out 30 days in advance of the direct debit mandate being changed. Payments are reviewed on a quarterly basis to ensure that you are paying the right amount for your ongoing usage and account balance.

To avoid your bills displaying under/over estimated usage, we recommend that regular meter readings are provided whenever possible. This is truly the best way to ensure that your statements you receive are reflected based on your usage. We do of course understand that members may not be able to provide a reading every month, but the more you submit those readings (whenever you can), the better the system gets at understanding your consumption for when a read isn’t provided - which results in more accurate estimates being used on your bills.

I hope this has helped to explain our billing process a bit better. Please do let me know if you have any further questions at all and I’ll be more than happy to answer them for you :smiley:

Best wishes,