Step 3 Dealing with your priority debts

​Household gas and electricity

Gas and 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 gas and electricity bills as a priority debt.

How do I make an arrangement?

Important:

business gas and electricity arrears

Business gas and electricity arrears may need to be treated differently.

Business gas and electricity or contact us for advice.

The energy supplier will usually want their bill paid before the next bill is due. You can ask to pay your bills every week, every two weeks, or every month. If you have arrears, contact the supplier and ask for a payment arrangement.

Use Your budget 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 licence 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.

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.

Under the Energy UK safety net, member companies will not knowingly disconnect you at any time of year if, for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial hardship, you cannot protect your personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of your household. If you are vulnerable because of one of these reasons, you should not be disconnected.

Extra advice:

Ofgem guidelines

Ofgem is the regulatory organisation for gas and electricity. Energy suppliers must keep to Ofgem's guidelines, which say they should take your circumstances into account when making an arrangement to pay.

Extra advice: 

prepayment meters

If it is safe to install a prepayment meter, your supplier must ask you if you want one before your supply is cut off. If you have not fallen behind on an arrears repayment arrangement, the energy supplier cannot insist that you have a prepayment meter installed. But you can still ask for a prepayment meter if you want one.

 

The supplier still wants to cut my fuel off

If you are threatened with being cut off, contact the social services department of your local council or the DWP for help. The fuel supplier will delay cutting you off if they are told the social services or Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are looking into your case. They will usually hold action for 10 working days but may agree to delay longer. This could give you time to make an arrangement to pay. The Children’s Act 1989 gives social services the power to make payments in certain circumstances to families with children.

You should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service if you are threatened with being cut off or have been disconnected.

Help to pay your bill

Some fuel companies have set up trust funds that may be able to help you pay your fuel bills if you are in financial difficulties. Get information about trust funds and support schemes you can apply to for financial help by going to the Auriga Services website www.aurigaservices.co.uk. Click on the link to the Help with Water & Energy booklet at the top of the page. If your supplier does not have a trust fund, you can apply to the British Gas Energy Trust for help, even if you are not a consumer of British Gas.

Help with gas, electricity and water costs

Extra advice:

complaining about your energy supplier

All suppliers should follow a code of practice when dealing with people in arrears. You can complain to Ombudsman Services: Energy about a billing or transfer problem but you must complain to your supplier first.