Help with electricity bill arrears
If you have arrears on your electricity bill, you may be able to get help direct from your energy supplier in the form of a grant to pay off the arrears.
To check if your supplier offers such assistance use the following links:
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What happens if I miss an electricity bill payment?
Electricity companies can cut off your supply in a few weeks if you don’t pay them but they should only do this as a last resort. They must give you notice first. They cannot cut off your supply unless they have first offered you a range of payment methods to help you pay. It is important to contact them as soon as you know you are going to have problems. You should treat electricity bills as a priority debt.
If you miss a payment, the first action is to contact the utility provider direct. You will need to negotiate paying the arrears back and often the company will want the arrears clearing before the next bill is due. However, energy suppliers are bound by Ofgem guidelines that say they should take your circumstances into account when making an arrangement to pay. Ofgem is the regulatory organization for gas and electricity.
You can ask to pay your bills every week, every two weeks, or every month. Phone or write to the supplier and ask for a payment arrangement.
Use your budget summary to support your offer of payment. This must cover the cost of the energy you are using and an amount off the arrears. Even if the supplier does not agree to your offer, start paying what you have offered immediately. Do not offer to pay more than you can afford towards the arrears. All energy suppliers should agree, under their standard license conditions, to accept an offer of repayment in instalments at a rate that you can afford.
If the first person you speak to is unhelpful, ask to speak to someone more senior.
Ask the supplier for a copy of their code of practice. This explains your rights and how to make a payment arrangement.
What will the electricity company do if I’m in arrears?
Initially they will contact you asking you to make an arrangement to repay the arrears.
They can contact you by phone or by letter. If you don’t contact them, don’t pay the arrears or don’t reach an agreement about how to pay the arrears, the electricity company can take further action. This could include:
- Visiting you at home to collect what you owe.
- Passing your account to a debt collection agency.
- Obtaining a warrant to gain entry to your home to fit a prepayment meter where it is safe to do so.
- If they are unable to fit a prepayment meter they may disconnect your supply.
- If they have to come out to visit or gain entry to your home, they will add the costs to your bill.
Can the electricity company disconnect my supply?
Yes – but this is normally only as a last resort. Most energy suppliers will not disconnect you if:
- you agree to a payment arrangement;
- you agree to have a pre-payment meter installed;
- the debt belongs to a person who lived in your home before you;
- it is between October and March and all the adults in the household are over retirement age; or
- you are considered vulnerable under the Energy UK safety net.
You cannot be disconnected for a gas or electricity bill from an old address if you move home. However, you may find it hard to get an energy supply in your new home from the same energy supplier unless you make an arrangement to pay your debt with them. You may need to use a different supplier for the energy bills at your new address.
Checking who is responsible for the bill
If you are not the person named on the bill (for example, if it is in the name of someone who has left your home), you may not be legally responsible for the arrears up to the date they left. You can argue with the energy supplier that you are not legally responsible for the bill. This should prevent your energy being cut off until the dispute has been sorted out.
Paying off your electricity arrears
Use your budget summary to work out how much you can offer. This must cover the cost of the energy you are using and an amount off the arrears. Even if the supplier does not agree to your offer, start paying what you have offered immediately. Do not offer to pay more than you can afford towards the arrears. All energy suppliers should agree, under their standard license conditions, to accept an offer of repayment in instalments at a rate that you can afford.
Under Ofgem guidelines the supplier has to offer you a method of payment which is most suitable for you and your financial situation, and also your ability to pay.
Available debt management help
If you are struggling to pay your electricity bill because you are also trying to make payments to unsecured debts, then a debt management scheme may allow you to reduce payments to the unsecured debts thus freeing up additional money to allow you to clear the electricity arrears which are a priority
It would be best to contact your supplier to see if they have any specific criteria should an alternative debt option be available to you.
Further useful information
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Discount is a scheme run by the government and energy companies. Customers that qualify will get a £140 discount off their electricity bill this winter. If you’re eligible, you’ll either receive a letter this winter from the Department for Work and Pensions or you may be able to apply directly for a discount from your supplier. Find out more about eligibility for the Warm Home Discount on the Gov.uk website.
Priority Services Register
The Priority Services Register is run by energy suppliers and offers extra free services to pensioners, people who are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long term ill-health. To apply, you need to sign up to your supplier’s Priority Services Register. If you have different suppliers for electricity and gas, you will need to register with each one. Get in touch with your supplier for more information.
What is Fuel Poverty?
Fuel Poverty is when a household has to spend 10% or more of its income on energy to maintain acceptable levels of warmth. This is considered to be a temperature of 21oC- 23oC in the main living area of a home and 18oC in other areas. Fuel poverty is influenced by three key factors – the cost of fuel, the income of the household and the energy efficiency of the home.
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