Gas and electricity arrears
This fact sheet covers England & Wales. We also have a version for Scotland if you need it.
Use this fact sheet to:
- help you to deal with your energy bills;
- understand how to prevent disconnection;
- help you to complain about your supplier; and
- get advice about energy efficiency.
Most of the advice in this fact sheet can be used to deal with both gas and electricity debts. Where advice is linked to a particular kind of energy, it says so.
The sample letters mentioned in this fact sheet can be filled in on our website.
Commercial energy debt
This fact sheet deals with domestic energy debts. If you have issues with your commercial energy debts, please use our Commercial energy debt fact sheet to help you deal with them.
If you need time to get debt advice and find a debt solution, you may want to consider applying for breathing space.
Breathing space will stop most types of enforcement and also stop most creditors applying interest and charges for 60 days.
To find out more, see our Breathing space fact sheet.
I'm struggling to pay my energy bills
If you have received a high bill and you are not sure how you are going to pay, there are some key steps to take to make it easier for you to deal with.
Check your bill
Bills based on estimated readings may be wrong. If you can take your own readings, read your gas and electricity meters and send the current readings to your supplier. The contact details will be on your bill. Doing this will make your bill more accurate. Bear in mind that if your readings are higher than your supplier’s estimated readings, you may end up with a bigger bill by updating your readings in this way.
Direct debits are usually set at a rate to cover your estimated energy use for a whole year. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your supplier for an explanation of how your direct debit payment has been worked out. Your supplier may be able to reduce the direct debit if:
- it is currently based on an estimate which is higher than accurate meter readings suggest you really use in a year; or
- it includes an amount to repay a debt to your supplier.
If you are repaying a debt, you can ask for the debt repayment to be lowered if the current rate is not affordable for you. Your supplier should take your ability to pay into account when setting debt repayment rates. See Make an offer you can afford later in this section.
If your supplier refuses to lower your direct debit when you think that they should, you can make a complaint. For more information, see the later section Complaining about your energy supplier.
Smart meters and estimated bills
Smart meters automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier. Due to changes in the systems used to send the meter readings, some older smart meters may temporarily stop sending meter readings. If your smart meter is affected, you should send regular meter readings to your supplier during the period that your meter is not sending the readings.
Use the smart meter check tool on the Citizens Advice website to check if your meter is automatically sending readings to your supplier.
It’s always a good idea to make a note of your meter readings when you move into or out of your home. Send your readings to your supplier to get an accurate bill if you are leaving or a clear starting point if you are the new occupier. If you aren’t sure how to read your meter, the Citizens Advice website www.citizensadvice.org.uk has a page How to read your energy meter which may help. Alternatively, have a look on your supplier's website to see if they give you the information there. Try to give your supplier at least 48 hours’ notice of your intention to move out, so that they can arrange to read your meter.
Your bill might not be what you expect for a number of different reasons: estimated readings, readings from the wrong meter, a mistake in the meter readings or even a faulty meter. See the page If your energy bill seems too high or low on the Citizens Advice website for advice on what to do in each case.
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 debt up to the date they left. If you are in this position, tell your supplier that you may not be legally responsible for the whole bill. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help in sorting out what you do and what you don’t owe to your supplier. See the Useful contacts section for details or contact us for advice. The Citizens Advice website has an interactive page Find out if you’re responsible for paying an energy bill which can help you work out whether you are responsible or not.
Who is my supplier?
See the page Find out who your gas or electricity supplier is on the Citizens Advice website.
Ofgem has stated that in most cases your supplier should not bill you for energy used more than 12 months ago if they have not previously:
- billed you correctly for the usage; or
- informed you about the usage in a statement of account.
See the Ofgem website for more information on back-billing rules.
Landlord reselling energy
Your landlord may pay for the gas or electricity in your home, and resell the energy directly to you. Ofgem, the regulator for the energy sector, sets maximum charges your landlord can sell gas and electricity to you at. You can get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline about how much your landlord is allowed to charge you. Contact your local advice agency or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you think you may have been overcharged for energy. See the Useful contacts section at the end of this fact sheet for details.
Let your supplier know
It is important to contact your supplier as soon as you know you may have problems paying your bill. They may be able to offer various options to help you.
- Trust funds and hardship funds: some energy companies have funds which can make payments to help clear energy debts.
- Help with energy efficiency: your supplier may be able to help you with the cost of a more efficient boiler, or other energy efficiency measures. See the section Energy saving help for more information.
- Meter reading: if you have trouble reading your meter, understanding your bill, or you have a medical or mental health condition which makes it harder for you to manage, ask your supplier to put you on their Priority Services Register so that you get extra help. See the section Priority Services Register for more information.
People can be vulnerable for a wide range of reasons. Vulnerability can be linked to age, physical health, mental health, or going through a difficult time in life. A vulnerability could be temporary or ongoing. You should let your supplier know if there is anything about your circumstances that makes you vulnerable as they may offer you more support if they know this.
You should also check if your supplier has signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment. Energy UK is a trade association. Suppliers signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment have said they will provide extra support to vulnerable customers. This includes:
- making sure staff have an understanding of vulnerability and can identify that you might be in vulnerable circumstances;
- giving you an alternative way of contacting them in addition to phone contact;
- providing a freephone number if you are in financial difficulty and they think it is appropriate; and
- making sure you have paper versions of your bill if this is what you need.
Priority Services Register
Energy suppliers each have a Priority Services Register to identify customers who are vulnerable and may need extra help. Examples of when you may be considered vulnerable include if you are:
- a pensioner;
- disabled or have a long-term medical condition;
- experiencing a mental health problem; or
- pregnant or have young children.
You may be able to register for other reasons that are not listed above. For example, you have recently been bereaved.
You can apply to be on the register by contacting your supplier. If your name is put on the register, you may get:
- help to read your meter or have it moved;
- large-print letters and bills;
- password protection agreed with your supplier, so you know that the person calling is from your energy supplier;
- advance warning when supplies are going to be stopped for a period; and
- priority reconnection if your energy supply is disrupted.
If you also own your own home you might also be offered a free, yearly gas safety check of your appliances if you receive an income-based benefit and you:
- live alone;
- live with other adults who are all eligible; or
- live with others, including a child under five years old.
Make an offer you can afford
Your supplier will usually want their bill paid before the next bill is due, but this may not be possible. If you have debt, contact your supplier and ask for a payment arrangement based on what you can afford.
It is very important to budget for ongoing gas and electricity bills. Ask your energy supplier to tell you what your weekly or monthly energy charges are. Alternatively, to work this out add up your bills to find out the total amount for the previous year.
- To work out weekly charges, divide the total by 52.
- To work out monthly charges, divide the total by 12.
Put the amount into Your budget as an essential expense. Then add in your other essential expenses. This will show you what surplus you can afford to offer to your supplier and to any other priority creditors. If you need help to work what offer to make to your supplier, contact us for advice.
You can use our sample letter Ask your domestic energy supplier to accept affordable payments.
Your supplier should offer you different payment options and budgeting schemes to suit you. You can ask to pay your bills every week, every two weeks or every month. Keep paying for the energy you are using and an amount off your debt, even while you are trying to make an arrangement.
Under the Fuel Direct scheme, you may be able to pay towards your energy arrears directly from your benefits. A set amount is taken to pay towards your debt and an amount may also be taken to pay for your ongoing energy costs. From 1 April 2022 onwards, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will only agree to new or increased deductions for ongoing energy costs if you give your consent.
To join the scheme you must be getting one of the following benefits: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support; Pension Credit; or Universal Credit.
If you want to pay by Fuel Direct, contact:
- the Pension Service if you get Pension Credit;
- the Universal Credit helpline if you get Universal Credit; or
- Jobcentre Plus if you get income-related ESA, income-based JSA or Income Support.
Ask how much will be deducted from your benefit to pay towards your debt. If the deduction will be higher than Your budget shows that you can afford, you are likely to be better off negotiating a payment arrangement directly with your supplier. Contact us for advice if you are not sure whether Fuel Direct would suit you.
Ability to pay
Your supplier has to take into account your ability to repay your energy debt. The supplier must:
- take your individual circumstances into account;
- make full use of available information, including your budget sheet;
- make it easy for you to talk to them about concerns you have around your ability to pay; and
- contact you in a timely manner to discuss whether a different repayment plan is appropriate if you miss a payment on an agreed repayment.
When your supplier knows that you are having difficulty repaying your energy bills, they must either:
- accept payments by regular instalments based on an agreed plan;
- use Fuel Direct if you are on particular benefits; or
- agree repayment through a prepayment meter, if one is appropriate for you.
Your supplier must also offer to provide energy efficiency information to help you reduce your energy charges.
If the first person you speak to is unhelpful, ask to speak to someone more senior. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need help negotiating an arrangement with your supplier (see the Useful contacts section for details), or contact us for advice.
If you can’t afford your ongoing energy bills
Rising gas and electricity prices are making it difficult for many people to pay for the energy they use. If you are struggling to pay your bills, see the later section Help with your energy bills. Our Dealing with high gas and electricity bills fact sheet also has information on the help available and includes budgeting advice to deal with the impact that bigger bills have on your finances.
If circumstances change
If your circumstances change and you cannot afford the payments that you had agreed with your supplier, you can use the Re-negotiate with your domestic energy supplier if your current repayment arrangement is unaffordable sample letter to ask them to accept a lower payment arrangement. It is a good idea to start making the reduced payments.
If you have been unable to keep to payments on a payment plan, your supplier may suggest that you have a prepayment meter. On this kind of meter, you pay in advance for the fuel that you are going to use. Prepayment meters can also be set to collect debt from the money that you put in.
- You must be asked if you want a prepayment meter before your supplier takes action to disconnect your supply. If your supplier fits a meter rather than disconnecting your supply, they should not charge more than £150.
- If you do not think that it is safe for you to use a prepayment meter for whatever reason: such as your health, disability, or where the meter is located, tell your supplier. They must either make it safe for you to use it or offer you a different payment method.
- Your supplier must not force you to have a prepayment meter to recover debt if doing so would be severely traumatic for you, due to your mental or psychological state. A more suitable method of collecting the debt should be arranged with you.
- If your condition or vulnerability has prevented you from sorting out your energy debt with your supplier, they should not charge you for fitting a prepayment meter as a way of sorting out your debt.
Prepayment meter points
- Prepayment meters allow you to carefully control the amount you spend on energy.
- Prepayment meters can help you to pay for your energy as you go and avoid future energy debt once you have paid your debt off. But they can also leave you without energy in some situations.
- If you can’t afford to top up the meter, you may end up without any energy until you can afford to top it up again. See the later section, Self-disconnection and self-rationing.
- You cannot spread the cost of your energy over the year, as you can with a credit payment plan. When you need the most energy, you might find it difficult to afford what you need.
- If you are repaying debt through a repayment meter, you can end up in hardship. The meter will be set to recover an amount of money each week. If you go away for a while and come back, you might not be able to get more energy until the outstanding payments have been made. Some meters require you to pay two weeks’ debt repayments before you can get more energy.
- Meters automatically allow you a small emergency credit, so that you don’t get caught without energy by surprise. Once this has been used up, you will usually need to pay back the emergency credit before you can get back your energy supply.
- You might leave a fire switched on if the money runs out. This could be a serious danger if you forget that you have left the appliance on and put more money in to restore your supply without first turning it off.
- If your sight is not good, or you have a disability, you might have difficulty operating the meter. Meters can often be put in a place which makes them easier to use.
- Topping up the meter can present problems: you might need to make frequent journeys to top up your meter if you can’t afford to pay for much energy at any one time. This can add to the cost of your energy and be difficult to do if you: live in a rural area, if you have dependants or have a disability.
- It may be difficult to arrange for repayment of energy debt through Fuel Direct if you have already made an arrangement to collect debt through a prepayment meter.
Smart meter topping up
Smart meters measure your energy use and can send this information to your supplier electronically. You may not have to give manual readings as well. Smart meters can be set up as prepayment meters and have a wider range options for topping them up, including: by phone, by internet or with a special app. This can mean that they are easier to use than traditional prepayment meters.
Self-disconnection and self-rationing
If you have a prepayment meter, you could become self-disconnected. This is where you are left without gas or electricity until you can afford to top up your prepayment meter. There are various reasons this could happen, for example forgetting to top up the meter or not realising that the meter was low on credit. If you are in this situation, suppliers are required to provide you with either:
- an Emergency Credit to top up your meter; or
- a Friendly-hours Credit at times top up points may be closed. This is usually overnight, at weekends and on public holidays.
These types of credit may be built into your prepayment meter already. If you need this support but are unsure how to access it, contact your supplier.
Even if you can keep your prepayment meter topped up, you may find you can only do this by self-rationing. This is where you limit your energy use to save money, or where you spend less on other goods or services so that you can have an energy supply.
If you are vulnerable, your supplier may be able to provide you with an Additional Support Credit to ensure you have supply of energy. There are a wide range of reasons you could be in a vulnerable situation, for example, living with a physical or mental health issue, experiencing a bereavement, or having a drop in your income. Your supplier may offer you Additional Support Credit if they know you:
- have self-disconnected;
- are at risk of self-disconnecting;
- have self-rationed; or
- are self-rationing.
Call your supplier if you need this support. Explain your situation and ask them to provide you with an Additional Support Credit. If you are not sure if you are in a vulnerable situation, speak to your supplier or contact us for advice.
Repaying a credit from your supplier
Usually, credit has to be repaid when you next top up your supply. But, if this will not be possible, suppliers have to consider your ability to pay and agree an affordable repayment plan with you. See Make an offer you can afford in the earlier section I’m struggling to pay my energy bills.
Cutting off your energy supply
You should be able to prevent disconnection if you contact your supplier and arrange to repay your debt at an affordable rate, either by instalments, Fuel Direct or through a prepayment meter. You must be asked if you want a prepayment meter before your supply is disconnected, if it is safe to install one.
Landlord not paid the bill
Your landlord may pay the gas or electricity for your home. Contact your local council or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if your supplier is threatening to cut your supply off because the landlord has not paid the bill. Your local council may have the power to help you avoid disconnection or to restore your energy supply through their local welfare assistance scheme.
Preventing disconnection – winter months
Certain activities concerning gas and electricity may only be carried out with a licence, regulated by Ofgem. Licences contain conditions that licence holders must abide by. The licence conditions provide protection for particular groups of customers during the ‘winter months’, which are: October, November, December, January, February and March.
Standard Licence Condition 27 states that your suppler must not disconnect you during the winter months if you are a domestic customer and you are:
- a pensioner living alone; or
- a pensioner living only with other pensioners or children under 18 years old.
Standard Licence Condition 27 also states that your supplier must take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting you during the winter months if your household includes somebody that is:
- a pensioner;
- disabled; or
- chronically sick.
If your supplier is threatening disconnection of your supply and you are in one of these groups, let your energy provider know straight away. You can also get help from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. See the Useful contacts section for details.
Preventing disconnection – Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment
The Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment gives vulnerable customers further protection from disconnection. If your supplier has signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment, they will not knowingly disconnect you if:
- you are vulnerable;
- your household has children under the age of 6 (or under the age of 16 during 1 October to 31 March); or
- you cannot safeguard your personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household due to age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity.
Check to see if your supplier has signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment, as not all suppliers have. If you can benefit from the protections offered by the Commitment, tell your supplier that you are vulnerable and need an affordable way of paying for your energy supply. Also ask to be put on the supplier’s Priority Services Register, if you have not already done this.
- If you have not paid your energy bill after 28 days from the date of the bill, your supplier can start action that could lead to disconnection.
- If you miss an instalment on an agreed arrangement, your supplier can only start action after 28 working days from the date that you missed the payment.
Gas and electricity companies cannot cut off your supply unless they have first offered you a range of payment methods to help you pay. They must only disconnect your supply as a last resort and they must give you proper notice first.
- Electricity suppliers must give you seven working days’ notice in writing that they are going to disconnect your electricity supply because you have not paid your bill.
- Gas suppliers must give you seven days’ notice in writing that they are going to disconnect your gas supply because you have not paid your bill.
Contact your local council and the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if your supplier is threatening to disconnect your supply. Your local council may be able to help you to avoid disconnection or to restore your energy supply through their local welfare assistance scheme.
If you have children, consider contacting your local social services department for help with your energy payments. Tell your supplier that you have contacted social services as they must delay cutting you off if social services are looking into your case. They will usually hold action for 14 working days but may agree to delay longer. This could give you time to make an arrangement to pay. The Children Act 1989 gives social services the power to make payments in certain circumstances to families with children in need.
It is important that you do reach an agreement before disconnection occurs, because it will be much cheaper to repay your existing debt than to pay for reconnection as well.
If you are genuinely in dispute about your electricity or gas bill, your supplier should not disconnect your supply. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help in disputing your bill or if your supplier threatens to disconnect your energy supply. See the Useful contacts section for details.
Old debt and new address
You cannot be disconnected for a gas or electricity bill from an old address if you have moved home. However, you may find it hard to get an energy supply in your new home from the same supplier unless you make an arrangement to pay your debt with them. You may need to use a different supplier for your new address.
Entry into your home
If you don’t come to an agreement to pay your debt, your supplier can apply for a warrant from the magistrates’ court, making it legal for them to enter your home to disconnect your energy supply. They will usually tell you when the magistrates' court hearing will take place. You should contact a local advice agency to see if you can get support at the hearing if you want to stop the warrant.
Even at this late stage, you can contact your supplier to make an affordable offer of repayment before you or your representative goes to court. But, if you do go to court, take copies of your budget to give to the court and your supplier to support your offer. Also take any evidence you wish to present. This could include points about:
- a dispute about the amount charged;
- how the supplier has behaved;
- what actions you have taken;
- what offers of payment you have made and when;
- the effect a disconnection would have on your household, especially on children, people who are ill or who are elderly;
- disabled members of your household; and
- your budget.
If you don’t have a representative, you can take along a friend to court to support you. If you want them to be able to speak for you, explain to the magistrate why you need this and ask that your friend is allowed to address the court directly on your behalf. It is up to the magistrate whether they will allow your friend to speak directly to the court, or not. If the magistrate does not allow your friend to speak directly to them, they will usually allow your friend to speak quietly to you, take notes for you and give you advice.
If the court grants the warrant, your supplier must give you seven days’ notice (gas) or seven working days’ notice (electricity) before they can use the warrant to enter and disconnect your supply. Your supplier is actually more likely to fit a prepayment meter than to disconnect your supply. If you are getting benefits, consider whether Fuel Direct could be a better option for you than a prepayment meter. See the earlier section Make an offer you can afford.
Temporary pause on the force fitting of prepayment meters
On 9 February 2023, suppliers agreed with Ofgem to temporarily stop:
- making court applications for warrants of entry to install prepayment meters (unless they suspect theft);
- remotely switching smart meters to prepayment mode without the customer’s permission; and
- installing prepayment meters under warrant.
Ofgem is developing a new code of practice for suppliers on moving customers onto prepayment meters. It has confirmed that suppliers will only restart forced installation of prepayment meters when they are following the new code of practice.
If your supplier threatens or carries out any of the actions listed above, you should make a complaint. See the section Complaining about your energy supplier.
If your supplier thinks that fuel has been stolen, they may try to prosecute you for the theft. If they do, try to find out these key details.
- What do they say happened?
- What evidence do they have?
- When do they think that this occurred?
Theft of energy supply or tampering with a meter can result in a criminal prosecution leading to: a £1,000 fine, civil proceedings for the recovery of the debt and, less frequently, imprisonment.
This can also lead to disconnection of your supply at short notice, or no notice in some cases. However, the supplier has to take account whether anyone in the household is a pensioner, disabled or has a long-term medical condition. Disconnection must not take place during the winter months and can only be used as a last resort for non-payment of debt which arose from a theft.
Defending yourself against an accusation of theft can seem daunting. You should get legal advice and contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. See the Useful contacts section for details or contact us for advice.
To get reconnected after disconnection for unpaid debt, you will have to pay the original energy debt, a reconnection fee and any administrative costs you have been charged, as long as they are reasonable. You may also have to pay a security deposit before your supplier will agree to supply you again if you don’t want a prepayment meter. You cannot be asked to pay a security deposit if you agree to have a prepayment meter.
Contact your local council to ask if they can help pay for reconnection charges through their welfare assistance schemeIf you have children, consider asking your local Social Services department for help.
If you don’t owe any money to your supplier when they reconnect you, you can ask your supplier to fit you a credit meter so that you don’t have to top it up. Even if you do owe your supplier money, you may be able to argue that it is not safe or reasonably practical for you to have a prepayment meter if you:
- have medical equipment that needs electricity;
- are disabled;
- have a mental health condition; or
- have a long-term illness.
Once you have paid the outstanding amount, or you have agreed a repayment plan with the supplier, reconnection should occur within 24 hours. If the payment is made, or agreement is reached, outside the hours of the working day, the reconnection period begins from the start of the next working day.
If the supplier fails to reconnect within the appropriate time, they will usually have to pay you a standard payment of £30 within 10 working days.
If you feel that the level of reconnection charges are unfair, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help in challenging your supplier. See the Useful contacts section for details.
Complaining about your energy supplier
Start with your supplier
If you are not happy about how your supplier has treated you, start by making a complaint to them directly, to see if they can put matters right. Ask for their code of practice and for their complaints procedure, or read these on their website. This gives you the information you need to make an effective complaint in the right way. The code of practice may give you the words to describe exactly how the supplier has not met your expectations and their own standards. The complaints procedure will tell you the steps you need to take to register your complaint with your supplier.
Citizens Advice consumer helpline
Citizens Advice consumer helpline will give you free information about:
- how to make your energy complaint; and
- which organisation you should send it to.
See the Useful contacts section for details.
You can also use the free service, Resolver, to help you write to your supplier and to pass your complaint on to the Energy Ombudsman. Resolver’s website tools can help you to:
- prepare your emails;
- keep a copy of communications;
- make a case file where you can save and upload emails and documents; and
- remember when to escalate your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
Ombudsman Services: Energy
If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint after eight weeks, or if you have received a ‘deadlock’ letter giving your supplier’s final response to your complaint and you are not happy, you can escalate your complaint to the Ombudsman Services: Energy. If your complaint is with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), you can transfer your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman after six weeks. If the Ombudsman Services: Energy decides in your favour, they can require your supplier to:
- make an apology;
- pay financial compensation;
- take an action to remedy the matter; or
- any combination of these.
The service is free, but you must make your complaint within a time limit. The service can accept a complaint within 12 months of a deadlock letter. If you have not received a deadlock letter, they may be able to investigate a complaint older than 12 months.See the Useful contacts section for contact details.
Other steps you can take
If you are not happy with what the Energy Ombudsman has decided, you may be able to take court action, depending on what’s gone wrong. This could involve you in significantly more costs, so you should discuss your plan for action with the Citizens Advice consumer helpline first. See the Useful contacts section for details.
Help with your energy bills
The government has announced the following support to help households with rising energy bills.
Energy Price Guarantee. If you are on your supplier’s standard variable tariff, the government has announced an Energy Price Guarantee that will limit how much your supplier can charge you for each unit of energy.
From 1 October 2022 to 30 June 2023, a household paying by direct debit and using 2,900 kWh of electricity and 12,000 kWh of gas will pay the equivalent of around £2,500 per year. Without the guarantee, this would have been over £3,500. The exact amount you pay will depend on how much energy you use.
If you are on a fixed-term contract that charges more than the Energy Price Guarantee, your supplier should reduce your bills by up to:
- 17p per kWh for electricity and 4.2p per kWh for gas during the period 1 October 2022 to 31 December 2022;
- 31.8p per kWh for electricity and 6.4p per kWh for gas during the period 1 January 2023 to 31 March 2023; and
- 16.6p per kWh for electricity and 2.2p per kWh for gas during the period 1 April 2023 to 30 June 2023
You can ask your supplier if it would be cheaper for you to cancel the fixed-term contract and move onto their standard variable tariff. If you do consider cancelling a fixed-term contract, check if you will be charged a penalty to exit. Your supplier can’t charge an exit fee if you cancel a contract within 14 days of signing up to it.
For more information, see GOV.UK.
Energy Bills Support Scheme. All households with an electricity connection in England, Scotland and Wales will receive a £400 discount to help with the rising cost of energy. It will be spread over six months and the first payment will be made in October 2022. The discount will not have to be repaid.
Although you do not have to apply for the discount, you will need to take action to add it to your meter if you are on a traditional prepayment meter. You will be sent a voucher by text message, email or post that can be redeemed at your usual top-up point.
For other types of meter, the discount may be provided through a reduction to your direct debit, a refund to your bank account or by applying a credit to your electricity account or smart prepayment meter.
For more information, see GOV.UK.
Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding. Under this scheme, you may be eligible for a payment of £400 into your bank account if you do not have a relationship with a domestic electricity supplier.
If you are eligible, you will need to apply to the scheme by 31 May 2023. You can check whether you are eligible and make an application on GOV.UK or by calling 0808 175 3287 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
It is recommended that you apply as soon as possible as applications may take up to six weeks to process.
Alternative Fuels Payment. You may be eligible for a £200 Alternative Fuels Payment (AFP) if you use an alternative to mains gas for heating, for example heating oil or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
The government will provide suppliers with a list of households that are connected to a domestic electricity supply but are not connected for mains gas. If your household is in the list and you have a domestic electricity contract, you should receive the £200 payment automatically. Most payments are expected to be made as a credit on electricity bills.
Contact your electricity supplier if you think you are eligible but have not yet received it.
If are not eligible for an automatic payment of the AFP, you may be able to apply for a payment if:
- you do not have a mains connection for both gas and electricity; or
- you were not identified as being eligible for an automatic payment when you think you should have been.
If you do not get the AFP automatically, you can check whether you are eligible for a payment and make an application on GOV.UK or by calling 0808 175 3287 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
Household Support Fund (England). If you live in England, you may be able to receive a small grant to to support with energy bills. Contact your local council to check if you may be eligible.
Discretionary support scheme (Wales). The government in Wales has made £25 million available to councils to provide support to households struggling with the rising costs of living. This discretionary fund may be able to help you with heating costs. Contact your local council for details of their scheme and how to apply.
If you pay energy costs to a landlord
If your landlord has an energy contract with a supplier and passes the cost of energy on to you, it is your landlord that will receive benefit from the Energy Bill Support Scheme and the Energy Price Guarantee. However, your landlord must consider passing on a ‘just and reasonable’ amount of these scheme benefits to you. Your landlord must notify you of their decision on how much they will pass on, even if they decide it is not appropriate to pass on any of the benefit.
Contact us for advice if you feel your landlord is not passing on the right amount of benefit from these schemes. You can also find more information on landlords’ obligations on GOV.UK.
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Discount Scheme requires certain suppliers to take £150 off the winter electricity bills of customers that have a low-income and are vulnerable to cold-related illness.
You may be eligible to get the discount automatically if:
- you receive the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit; or
- you receive another qualifying benefit or Tax Credits, and are identified by the government as living in a property with high heating costs.
In some cases, you will be required to provide further information to help decide whether you are eligible for the discount, so it is important that you check your post regularly. Letters about eligibility or possible eligibility to a discount are usually sent out by the middle of January every year.
See GOV.UK for full eligibility criteria and further information on the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you have reached the age at which you can apply for Pension Credit before the fourth Monday in September, you may be entitled to a lump sum payment from £100 up to £300 each year called the Winter Fuel Payment.
For winter 2022-23 only, the Winter Fuel Payment will be increased by a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of up to £300.
Contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160 or check the GOV.UK page on the Winter Fuel Payment for more information.
Cold Weather Payment
You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you are getting certain benefits and the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days. If you are eligible, you get a payment of £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) automatically pays it into the same account as the one they use to pay your benefit, within 14 days of the end of each cold weather period. You may be eligible if you are getting one of the following.
- Pension Credit.
- Income Support.
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Universal Credit.
- Support for Mortgage Interest.
See the GOV.UK page on Cold Weather Payment for more information.
Financial help from suppliers
Affordable Warmth Obligation
You may be able to get a grant through the Affordable Warmth Obligation for insulation and heating improvements. This is sometimes called the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) See the Energy Saving Trust website for more information.
Trust funds and hardship funds
Some energy companies have set up funds that may be able to help you pay your energy bills if you are in financial difficulties. Ask your supplier if they have a fund or contact us for advice.
Smart meter discount schemes
If you have a smart meter, your supplier may run a discount scheme under National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service. If your supplier has a discount scheme, you may be able to receive discounts for reducing your electricity usage during 12 sessions of 1 hour over the period 1 November 2022 to 31 March 2023. Suppliers will set the times that usage would need to be reduced and they will give 24 hours’ notice of each one-hour window where you could voluntarily reduce your electricity usage to qualify for a discount.
Contact your supplier or check their website for information on whether they are running a discount scheme, how to sign up to it and how discounts will be provided.
Energy saving help
You may be able to get a grant or a loan to help with insulation, draught proofing, central heating and other energy-saving measures. Some energy companies offer energy-saving schemes and discounts. Suppliers may offer other kinds of help.
- The Energy Saving Trust website has information on financial support that may be available to make energy-saving changes to your home.
- In Wales, you can also apply for free energy grants and help through the Nest scheme. Contact Nest on 0808 808 2244 or use a call back request form on their website. See the Useful contacts section for details.
If you have a combi-boiler, see Nesta’s Money Saving Boiler Challenge for information on how you may be able to save money on your gas bills. The website provides a step-by-step guide on identifying whether changing the ‘flow temperature’ setting on your boiler may save you some money and gives instructions on how to change the setting.
For information on other steps that you may be able to take to save on your energy costs, see GOV.UK.
If you are a homeowner, you can also use an online service on GOV.UK to get recommendations for home improvements that could make your property cheaper to heat and keep warm.
Getting the best energy deal
Switching your tariff or supplier
As energy prices are very high at the moment, it is unlikely that changing tariff or supplier will lower your bills.
Independent internet price-comparison sites can help you find the best deal amongst all the suppliers. Ofgem has approved a number of online comparison services for comparing deals. You can find them on the Ofgem webpage Switching energy tariff or supplier.
- If you have a credit meter (one you don’t have to top up) and have owed money to your current supplier for 28 days or more, you may not be able to move to a new supplier until you have paid the debt.
- If you have a prepayment meter and owe £500 or less to your current supplier, you should be allowed to switch.
If you think that you are being treated unfairly and need help to sort it out, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline (see the Useful contacts section for details) or contact us for advice.
If you are responsible for paying your supplier’s bill rather than your landlord, you have rights to choose your supplier and what method you use to pay your bill. See Ofgem's website page Tenants' energy rights explained for more details.
Fuel Direct and switching
If you are paying for your energy by Fuel Direct deductions from your benefits, you should tell the DWP the details as soon as you know that you are changing your energy supplier.
Sometimes the results from internet price comparison sites may suggest that you will get more savings by switching than you actually will. This is because of the way they have to calculate the possible savings you might make by switching supplier or by switching tariff. If this concerns you, you can ask your potential future supplier to give you an estimated figure for what you might save if you moved to them.
Credit on old energy accounts
If you have moved to a different supplier, you may have an old account with an amount of credit still in it. Contact your old supplier to get this credit back. See the Uswitch website for more information.
Credit reference agencies
Your supplier may send information about your account history and court action to credit reference agencies. This may affect your ability to get credit in the future. See our Credit reference agencies fact sheet for more information.
Citizens Advice consumer helpline A consumer helpline if you need more help with an energy problem Phone: 0808 223 1133 www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Nest Wales A scheme offering free home energy efficiency improvements to eligible customers Phone: 0808 808 2244 www.nest.gov.wales
Scope A charity with experts providing support for disabled households facing issues around energy and water Phone: 0808 801 0828 www.scope.org.uk/disability-energy-support
The Energy Ombudsman An independent body which handles disputes between consumers and energy suppliers Phone: 0330 440 1614 www.ombudsman-services.org/sectors/energy
Other fact sheets that may help you
Commercial energy debt fact sheet
Credit reference agencies fact sheet