The information on a typical bill can be a minefield of confusing terms and jargon. Here's what you need to know to better understand your bill.

If you're switching supplier

Note down the following from your recent energy bills before switching energy suppliers:

1. Name of your supplier.

2. Name of tariff / plan.

3. Amount of gas and electricity you've used in kilowatt hours (kWh) - calculate an annual or six month figure using recent bills.

You can also find your MPAN number for electricity, and MPRN number for gas, on your bill. These unique reference numbers identify the meter at your property. If your exact meter can't be located when switching energy suppliers, we'll ask you for this number instead.

Gas and electricity meter readings

You can check whether your energy bill is based on a gas or electricity meter reading taken by either you (usually indicated by the letter 'C' for customer) or your energy supplier ('A' for actual) - or whether it's an estimated reading calculated by your energy supplier ('E').

Check your energy bills are based on meter readings

If your energy bill is based on an estimated meter reading you should read your gas or electricity meter yourself and provide this information to your energy supplier, so it can send you a revised gas or electricity bill, based on your actual usage.

We suggest you read your own gas and electricity meters every three months.

Paying energy bills by direct debit

If you pay by monthly direct debit, you'll still receive a regular bill. Your supplier works out how much you spend on energy in a year and divides this up into equal monthly payments. Energy suppliers often offer a discount if you pay in this way, because it guarantees payment to them, but there are lots of other ways you can pay your energy bill.

You should keep a regular check on your bills to make sure your supplier is asking you to pay the right amount. Bear in mind that because energy use is not equal throughout the year, direct debit customers effectively underpay in winter and overpay in summer - but it's sensible to question any particularly large credit or debit balances with your supplier.

If you don't think you're paying the correct amount, contact your energy supplier to ask for a breakdown of how your direct debit amount is calculated.

Cutting your energy bills

Switching to a different supplier and tariff - or simply choosing to pay your existing one by direct debit, or managing your bills online - could cut your gas and electricity bills.

With Which? Switch, you can compare the latest deals from all the major suppliers - have your recent energy bills to hand while you're running a comparison to get results specifically tailored to you.

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