HOUSEHOLDS could see their energy bills rise ahead of the increase in October, Ofgem has said.

The UK’s energy regulator and industry body Energy UK said it was “possible” suppliers could raise customers’ direct debits before the new cap kicks in in the autumn, the BBC reported.

AlamyCustomers could see their energy bills increase before the price cap goes up in October[/caption]

This is because energy companies can put up their prices at any time.

Ofgem said any rises would be to help spread the cost of higher energy use in the winter months, as experts revealed energy bills could top £5,000 next year.

A spokesperson said direct debits are usually charged in a way that customers can build up “credit” during the warmer summer months when usage is lower.

This spreads out the cost of using more energy in colder months.

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A spokesperson said: “It’s therefore possible for direct debits to increase ahead of a price cap rise or even when a customer’s use has remained constant.”

But, the energy regulator also said customers can ask for their excess credit to be “returned at any time and can contact their suppliers to change how their direct debit is spread”.

Ofgem confirmed direct debits could be increased before October.

It comes after Martin Lewis said on BBC Radio 4’s today programme direct debits would start rising on August 26.

He said: “As soon as the announcement is made from Ofgem on the 26 August, that crystallizes the direct debits going up.”

Energy UK, the trade body for energy industry, also said direct debits were “reviewed periodically”.

It said suppliers took into account factors such as estimated usage and debit/credit balances.

A new price cap, which sets the maximum amount suppliers can charge customers for energy usage in England, Scotland and Wales, is due to be announced at the end of the month.

It will come into effect on October 1.

And it comes after a massive change was announced by Ofgem that the price cap will be amended every three months as opposed to six.

This means the next price cap rise will occur in January.

How do I challenge my bill?

You do have rights if you want to challenge your energy bill.

If you pay by direct debit, the monthly amount should be “fair and reasonable”.

If you don’t think this is the case, you should first complain to the company.

If you’re not happy with what the company says, you can go to the Energy Ombudsman, which is an independent and free service to use.

However, there are a few steps before you get to that stage.

Your supplier must tell you why it’s chosen that amount for your direct debit.

If you’ve got credit on your account, you have every right to get it back.

However, as Ofgem said, direct debits are normally charged in a way so that customers can build up their credit when usage is lower in the summer months.

Your supplier must refund you your credit if you ask for it, or explain exactly why not. Ofgem can fine suppliers if they don’t refund your credit.

If you are disputing a bill, you must take a meter reading first.

That way the company can’t rely on estimates which could see you overcharged.

If it’s lower than your estimate, you can ask your provider to lower your monthly direct debit to a more manageable amount.

If this doesn’t work, you can put in a complaint.

You can usually get in touch with your provider by email, letter or telephone, but keep a record of contact that you make so you can reference it later on.

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Citizens Advice has template complaints letters you can use to help you.

And free online tools from can help you track and manage a complaint step-by-step.

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