SCOTS have been urged to check whether they are owed money from their energy company.

A new campaign by the SNP is calling on the industry to hand over any cash owed to consumers.

The party wants to ensure people have the right to withdraw funds accrued from higher-than-necessary direct debit payments.

Launched by MP Drew Hendry on Saturday, the campaign will help consumers find out if they have a positive credit balance in their account and show them how to claim it back.

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The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP said he decided to launch the campaign came after a number of constituents contacted him to say their energy provider raised their monthly direct debit amount despite having a large credit balance on their account.

The Highland politician said a lack of intervention by Ofgem and the UK Government has allowed energy companies to “unfairly” hold customers' money.

He claimed balances can run into the hundreds and even thousands.

Drew is calling for tighter regulation to be implemented to ensure consumers have access to all their money.

The National: 'It's Your Money' campaign wants tighter regulations on energy companies'It's Your Money' campaign wants tighter regulations on energy companies

Current Ofgem regulations state that companies may increase direct debit payments if they deem it “fair”.

It also states that consumers may withdraw funds unless companies have “reasonable” grounds to refuse.

Hendry told The National he hoped the It’s Your Money campaign will alert people that they may be overpaying on already high energy bills.

He said: “Energy companies are increasing consumers' direct debits without customers' agreement, and in many cases, these increases are far more than is needed to cover bills.

“Often, customer accounts are needlessly sitting hundreds or even thousands of pounds in credit, and billpayers can often be unaware that their own money is sitting in energy company bank accounts.

The National: An increasing number of Scots are struggling to pay their energy billsAn increasing number of Scots are struggling to pay their energy bills

“Sometimes, this is a small amount, but even that could make a difference in getting through the week or month.

“That’s why I’m launching the It’s Your Money campaign today.

"And here’s what folk can do right now: If you haven’t already, sign up for an online account with your energy provider. There, you’ll be able to see an up-to-date reading of your account balance.

“If your account is in credit and you need this money now, ask for it. Or alternatively, ask for a reduction of your direct debit payments until it balances out.”

Hendry said he was keen to press the UK Government to implement tighter regulations in the area amid fears some companies may be reluctant to give out the cash.

He said: “I’ve heard of companies making this difficult or even outright refusing these perfectly reasonable requests. We know it can be done – constituents who are customers of Octopus, for example, tell me they can withdraw their excess funds at the click of a button.

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“I’ll be pushing for tighter regulation in this area so that consumers don’t find themselves at the mercy of their company’s goodwill (or lack thereof).

“If they still aren’t budging, and all else fails, you have the right to complain to Ofgem.

“This money shouldn’t be sitting in energy companies’ accounts, it should be in your pocket. After all, it’s your money.”

An Ofgem spokesperson said:

“Our financial resilience package of reforms strikes the balance between improving the energy retail sector’s resilience, keeping costs down for customers and encouraging innovation as we transition to home grown cheaper energy.

“We consulted widely on plans to ringfence credit balances and listened carefully. Instead of a complete ban, we’re setting a threshold to avoid suppliers overly relying on these credit funds.

"Should suppliers not comply with our financial resilience rules, we are leaving open the chance to instruct individual suppliers to ringfence customer credit balances.

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“Much of the feedback and analysis concluded that completely ringfencing credit balances would remove a large piece of working capital that would keep prices down for customers. Customers can still request their credit balance back from their supplier at any given time.”

Dhara Vyas, Deputy Director at Energy UK, the trade body for the energy industry, said:

“Customers can claim already credit back from their supplier who must either refund the amount requested or explain why. In addition, some suppliers automatically refund credit balances above a certain level each year.

“Steep rises in energy bills over the past year have inevitably led to big increases in direct debit payments.

"Suppliers are required to set direct debits at a level that allows the customer to pay the same amount each month, without running up too much credit and or getting into too much debt, basing this on each customer’s individual circumstances - taking into account factors like energy usage and record with previous payments.”