E.ON (EOAN.DE) customers have expressed their frustration at the company taking payments for January 11 days early from 1.5 million UK accounts and telling those affected that they will not receive a refund until after Christmas.
Hundreds of angry customers have taken to Twitter to complain about the early direct debit payment, which they say leaves many facing “Christmas poverty” and unplanned overdrafts.
The payments taken in error could leave homes and small businesses unexpectedly paying more than £100 on their energy in the run-up to Christmas, based on the average monthly dual-fuel bill.
Many households are already struggling with financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One customer tweeted: “Not good enough! Many low income families budget for every penny. We are sorry will not buy them food for the next 5days!!!!!”
Another said: “Christmas ruined, can’t afford to pick up my pre-ordered Christmas shop today because E.ON took my direct debit early.”
The energy company said on Twitter: “We are aware of the issue affecting some customers’ Direct Debits and are working to resolve the situation and return the money on 29th December. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”
E.ON responded to the complaints on Christmas Eve, but some customers said the company was aware of the problem on Wednesday when the direct debits were taken.
“They knew about this yesterday as I contacted them due to my bank notifying me of a [direct debit] from them due today and they told me it was a system error and I was not to worry despite my reservations,” said one Twitter user.
The industry regulator, Ofgem, told the Guardian it was speaking to E.ON to find out the “root cause of the issue” and will “take action as appropriate.”
“This is a distressing experience for some customers, particularly at this time of year. We understand that E.ON is working to resolve this issue, and refund customers, as soon as possible,” the regulator said.
“We are sorry for this error and are taking steps to contact affected customers where we can,” an E.ON spokesperson told the Guardian.
The spokesperson apologised to customers and promised that the company would reimburse any bank charges incurred as a result of this issue.
Yahoo Finance UK contacted E.ON for comment and no representative had responded at the time of publication.
WATCH: Should I pay off debt or save money during the coronavirus pandemic?