Thousands of people across the UK struggle to pay their energy bills. Getting into energy debt can be a real concern but falling behind on your payments doesn’t have to mean your power gets switched off. Here’s what to do if you are struggling to pay your energy bills.
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If you can’t pay your energy bills then the first thing to do is contact your energy supplier. This may be daunting, but they will be on your side. It is in everyone’s best interests to resolve the situation.
Your supplier may be able to help you and they must give you information about how to avoid debt, how to repay your debt as well as a list of the money you currently owe.
If you can’t pay your bill, your energy supplier can help you set up a repayment plan to pay back your energy debt gradually. This will space out your energy repayments over time so that you don’t have to worry about lump sums.
If you are already on a repayment plan and can’t make those payments, it is worth trying to renegotiate with your supplier to make it more affordable.
Sometimes, your supplier will let you pay your energy bill in instalments. This means you can pay off your debt in affordable amounts over time. You will have to negotiate with your energy supplier to agree terms that suit you both.
If you are recently in energy debt then the easiest way to deal with it is to switch to a cheaper energy plan. This means you are immediately paying less for your energy and can help you redistribute the money you save towards paying your debt. Compare energy tariffs to see if this could help you.
If you’ve been in debt to your supplier for less than 28 days they should let your switch. Unfortunately, if you’ve been in debt for longer than this you will need to repay your debt before your supplier lets you switch.
If your supplier won’t let you switch due to your debt, find out how much you owe. If you owe less than £500 per fuel and you have a prepayment meter, your supplier must let you switch according to Ofgem’s Debt Assignment Protocol.
It is very rare that your energy supply will be disconnected, but it is a last resort for energy suppliers.
Your supplier must send you a disconnection notice before they can disconnect you. They cannot send you a disconnection notice until at least 28 days after your energy bill. Your supplier must also give you at least 7 days written notice before they can disconnect your energy supply.
If you are a pensioner, have long-term health problems, are disabled or have serious financial problems, there are extra measures in place to prevent your energy being disconnected.
If you’re facing being disconnected your energy supplier might suggest switching to a prepayment meter. This will prevent you from falling further behind in debt, however prepayment meters are often the most expensive way of paying for energy.
Switching to a prepayment meter means you can pay off your energy debt at the same time as paying for the gas and electricity you use. You prepay for energy using a token, smartcard or app. However, if the money on your prepayment meter runs out, you will not have gas or electricity.
If you don’t have the Cash to top up your prepayment meter you do have a few options:
If you can’t pay your energy bills the government offers various grants and schemes to help. For example, if you were born before August 1953, you are likely to be eligible for Winter Fuel Payment.
You may also qualify for Cold Weather Payments during the winter. This means that when the weather drops below zero degrees for 7 consecutive days, you could receive £25 per day towards your energy bills.
It is worth telling your energy supplier if you are a pensioner, have a disability, a long-term illness, live with young children, or have serious financial issues as they are likely to be able to help.
The Warm House Discount aims to alleviate financial pressure for those at risk of poverty. It comes in the form of a rebate on the energy your household uses between October and March.
If you are constantly struggling to pay your energy bills it may be worth finding out whether you are eligible.
If you receive benefits then you may be able to repay your energy debt using the Fuel Direct Scheme. This will take money directly from your benefits to repay your debt. It will cover the gas and electricity you use as well as a fixed amount towards what you owe.