Does anyone else get the feeling that the bills you receive bear little or no relationship to the use of energy? I am on a fixed tariff, but the monthly direct debit keeps rising - even when I have been away on holiday for a large portion of the billing period. During summer I expect to build up a bit of credit - instead, the d/d goes up, virtually month on month. I live alone, so have control of energy usage.
Has anyone ever requested an audit of past charges, and if so, did it happen?
You're confusing "the bill" and "the direct debit".
The debit debit is simply a payment into your account, and is mostly unrelated to any of your actual bills. So long as it isn't massively high building up a huge credit, or far too low, building up a huge debt, then you don't have to worry about it. Indeed, if you do think it's too high or too low or you don't agree with their change, then Scottish Power make available their "direct debit manager" where you can set the level yourself. Just because you're on a "fixed tariff" will not prevent your direct debit varying with your usage. It's the unit rate that is fixed, it's not "use as much as you like for a fixed amount".
What you want to look at are your actual bills. In terms of an "audit of past charges" you can do this yourself. You should have access to approximately the last 12 months of bill PDFs available to download from your account. From these, you will be able to check they correspond to the meter readings you have submitted and verify that the calculation and tariff terms are as you expect them to be.
Again, don't be distracted by your direct debit. Only your meter readings and the bills that are generated are what matters. I'd recommend submitting readings monthly to get a better picture of your usage. Take a look at your past meter readings, look at your usage in kWh, and you'll immediately be able to see if there's anything wrong.
If you truly believe that your electric and/or gas meters have started metering incorrectly (rare, but not unheard of) then you can ask Scottish Power for a "check meter" to be installed alongside your existing meter enabling the calibration to be checked. Of course, there is a charge for this if it turns out that there's nothing wrong. You could do a basic test yourself - for example turn off everything in your house and then run a known load like a 1kW electric heater permanently on for 1 hour, and see if your meter increases by exactly 1kWh. If you do decide to query the problem further, you're probably going to have to do a little better than saying you "get the feeling" it's wrong.
In addition to what Hooloovoo says, if you do try to alter your direct debit from the online manager, it sometimes asks you for a one-off payment before you are allowed to lower it. There's a sliding scale where you can get a reduction in your direct debit before SP want you to part with more for the privilege, but also a threshhold (usually small) where you don't have to up it at all. You just have to decide if the extra credit you have to put on your acount is worth the DD lowering you will achieve for the following month. And bear in mind, it WILL only be lowered for the following month. You are also only allowed to alter your DD a limited umber of times per 'review period' ie: per year.
Sometimes it's more effective money-wise to 'request a refund' from the same options list on your account summary page. You can request a refund every month but have to enter actual meter readings each time for SP's system to update then decide how much of your credit you want back. This puts the money back into your bank account within 21 days, but again, may require you to up your direct debit, though in my experience, by not as much as when you alter your direct debit.
The other thing to remember is: if you claw back a lot of your credit balance just as we're going into winter, you'll start to lag behind on your credit balance/usage ratio, meaning by the end of winter you could have a huge debt, like Hooloovoo says. It all depends on how much you think your usage is going to cost and how much credit balance you want back.
I am in the same situation. I usually pay less than £90 month but my last direct debit was £111. I submitted my updated metre readings and now it states I owe them nearly £300. There are only me and my 9 year old son living in the house. I work all day every day so we are not home all day except for the weekend and so I hardly believe we use that much electricity. The gas reading is even worse. It states I owe them alot on that, I have only just put my heating on this week since last winter so how I can owe them for gas is very confusing. My oven is electric as well so what on earth the gas has gone on is beyond me. I have just requested a callback from them to discuss this as I am not happy about owing them money before we even get into winter and the heating is actually on.
Am having the same problem compounded by the fact that the energy usage graph online is wrong (recognised by Scottish Power yet still not corrected). As a result, have gone back onto paper bills so that I can keep aneye on usage.