Glitch in energy bills gives thousands of Octopus customers almost-free gas

Octopus Energy Trains Heat-Pump Installation Teams At Facility In Slough
Affected customers paid a fraction of their usual gas bill (Image credit: Getty Images)

A major energy provider has charged its customers just 0.01% of their total gas bill due to a glitch — with customers told they won't need to pay back the full amount.

Octopus Energy, a specialist in sustainable energy, says the shortfall was caused by an "obscure technical error". It meant that rather than being charged for the amount of gas they used over the winter months, thousands of customers were instead charged a reduced rate of 99.99% less than what they should've owed.

Octopus has admitted the error was their mistake, taken responsibility for it and will not be issuing an amended bill. Here's what you need to know, including whether you could be one of the affected customers. 

What was the Octopus energy glitch?

The glitch appears to have centred around homes that still use gas meters with imperial measurements. It involved "reading factors" in the data supplied resulting in customers being billed for only a "tiny fraction" of the gas they had used.

Imperial gas meters are measured in cubic feet and are read from left to right, ignoring the numbers in red. There are usually four numbers, excluding the numbers in red. Even older imperial gas meters are sometimes measured in hundreds of cubic feet and working out whether yours is ft3 or 100ft3  isn't always obvious. Meanwhile, metric gas meters are read in cubic metres and usually have more numbers.

A spokesperson said. “We spotted a data feed error from a third party affecting a very small group of customers with older gas meters which still used imperial measurements.”

Following the error, Octopus sent affected customers and email saying it "had a confession to make" and informed them they had received an "unintentional discount". 

Could I be one of the customers given cheap gas?

If you are an Octopus Energy customer and haven’t already been contacted by the company, you are probably not one of the properties affected.

“The customers in question got a 99% discount on their gas usage for a few months over winter, which we have honoured up to their latest bill," the spokesperson explained. “Customers don’t need to worry, the error is now fixed and all those affected have already been contacted.

“Several customers have since let us know they were aware the payments were lower than expected but that they were enjoying the discounts.

“Of course, we are offering further support to any affected customers as required.”

Why is Octopus not asking for the money back?

Octopus has essentially held its hands up and said the glitch was their mistake.

In the email, the energy firm said: "Don't worry about the gas we've already billed you for: that was our mistake, and we have no intention of re-issuing your bills or trying to charge you for it.”

The energy firm has customers who did not receive the email to not contact Octopus to find out if they received the discount.

Their customer service phone lines are facing high demand from customers due to the current energy crisis and Octopus says it needs to be available to vulnerable customers.

The spokesperson added: “We’re doing everything we can to help customers with their bills this winter, including grants from our £15 million Octo Assist fund and free electric blankets, among other things.”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.