Thousands of UK households are not paying for electricity and gas.
According to a report in The Times, around 20,000 properties have “ghost meters” – those that are not registered to an energy supplier.
Households with ghost meters continue to receive electricity and gas, with the cost passed on to registered recipients.
This equates to around an extra £15m a year paid for by consumers.
Speaking to The Times, energy watchdog Ofgem claimed that the oversight was due to “errors in the industry’s administrative process”, with the majority of the unconnected “ghost meters” installed in converted flats or new blocks of flats.
According to Scott Byrom, utilities specialist at moneysupermarket.com: “You would hope that Ofgem is doing something about the issue. The market is not good at tracking down these meters. If people are using energy it needs to be paid by someone. So it’s free for them - but the rest of us are paying.”
Average energy bills are now topping £1,300 a year, with an estimated one in four officially defined as being in fuel poverty.
Blogging for The Huffington Post UK, Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, recently argued that government has to get tough on the energy companies who are squeezing the public for huge profits.
"The public is not a golden goose that will keep on laying - people are livid that they're paying through the nose for energy from companies who have been investigated time and again miss-selling, bamboozling us with hundreds of tariffs and inflating prices to such a level that energy bills are a real worry for the many, not just the impoverished few," he said.