The government has agreed measures with energy suppliers to support vulnerable customers through the Covid-19 outbreak.
All energy customers facing financial difficulties will be supported by their supplier.
This could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced, or paused. Disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.
Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit during isolation periods can speak to their provider about keeping them supplied during the outbreak.
You can get in touch with your supplier to find out more.
The cost of my gas or electricity has increased
It depends on what type of energy deal you have, but a good rule of thumb is your gas or electricity supplier needs to give you fair warning ahead of any price rises.
If it doesn't give you reasonable notice you can complain and switch to a different tariff or supplier - penalty free.
Fixed-rate tariff Your supplier can’t increase the price you pay for energy unless the government raises VAT or you're on a staggered tariff.
Staggered tariff Usually a fixed-term deal where set price increases are only allowed on specific dates and you won't get a reminder.
Tracker tariff The cost of your energy can go up and down, usually in line with wholesale prices, and you won't get any notice.
Standard variable tariff (SVT) Your energy suppliers basic offer, and usually the most expensive. An SVT is a rolling contract and you're free to leave any time. The cost is capped, but it can change on a quarterly basis.
If you haven’t received a bill from your supplier, don’t ignore it.
You’re legally obliged to pay for the gas and electricity you use, so make sure you make contact as soon as possible.
If your supplier doesn’t send you a bill after you get in touch with it, Ofgem’s back-billing principle offers some protection.
Your supplier should offer you a payment plan that allows you to repay any debt over the same length of time it’s built up.
You can also suggest an alternative plan if you feel your supplier is being unreasonable.
What is Ofgem's back-billing principle?
Back-billing is when a supplier charges you for gas and electricity you've used but haven't been billed for - usually due to a billing error.
Energy firms are banned from back-billing you for energy used more than 12 months before the error was detected, if it's found that it's the energy supplier's fault for not sending you your bills.
Importantly, the ban does not apply to customers who actively prevent suppliers from taking readings. If you were at fault, they can back-bill you for up to six years.
Do I have to pay an exit fee when I switch?
Exit fees, also called cancellation fees, are regularly applied to energy tariffs that have a fixed price and end date.
If you want to leave a fixed-term tariff before the end of the contract, it is likely that you will need to pay an exit fee.
But, if you are in the last 49 days of your fixed-term contract, you do not have to pay an exit fee and have the right to freely switch to any other energy supplier without being charged.
Your energy supplier is required to contact you 42-49 days before the end date of your fixed-term tariff, informing you that your tariff is coming to an end and that you can switch without a fee.
If an exit fee payment has been taken when it shouldn't have been – within the last 49 days of your fixed-term contract, for example – first contact your supplier to complain.
Energy switching: frequently asked questions
Do I have to pay a fee if I move house? Providing you keep your existing energy tariff and simply need to update your address, you don’t need to pay an exit fee if you move house.
Do I have to pay higher prices before I switch? If your supplier demands you pay the higher rates until your switch goes through, you can contact Ofgem, the energy regulator. In complaining, refer your supplier to Ofgem’s Standard Licence Conditions 23 and 24. These conditions set out the rules that energy companies must follow in relation to price increases and termination fees.
What if I change my mind about switching? You have a 14-day cooling-off period from when your agreement with the new supplier starts to change your mind and leave penalty free, minus the cost of the energy you've used in that time.
Can I switch if I owe my supplier money? If you owe money on your account, your current supplier can stop the switch until you've paid. But it has to write to tell you it's doing this and if you pay the balance within 30 working days of it telling you, your switch can still go ahead.
What if my energy supplier goes bust? Your gas and electricity supply won't be cut off. There will continue to be a supplier as normal and Ofgem will move you to a new supplier as part of a 'safety net'. Read our complete guide for what to do if your energy supplier goes bust.
Help! I've been switched by mistake
If you're switched by mistake, the Ofgem rules set out what the suppliers need to do to put things right.
Both your original or new energy supplier share equal responsibility for resolving the problem, and you can contact either of them.
Within 5 days you should receive written confirmation from the energy supplier you contact clearly explaining what action they're going to take and keep you updated with progress.
Within 20 working days you should receive confirmation that you're being returned to your original supplier.
How to complain to your energy company
Contact your supplier in writing either in a letter or by email. Keep a copy of everything you send to your supplier, including energy bills, and note when you sent them, even if it's just to keep a record of what is discussed over the phone.
Make sure to include evidence to support your case, including bills, photos of faulty meters or boilers, and records of previous correspondence.
Reach deadlock A deadlock situation means you’ve exhausted your energy company’s complaints procedure without agreement. Energy suppliers have a set time limit in which to resolve most complaints. This time limit is eight weeks.
If your complaint reaches a deadlock situation, you can then refer your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
Appeal the energy company's decision
If you’ve gone through your energy supplier’s complaints procedure and can’t resolve the issue or you’ve not been given a decision within eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
You must send your complaint to the ombudsman within nine months of submitting your original complaint to your energy supplier.
The Ombudsman Service is independent and free to use. The ombudsman has the power to force an energy supplier to take action, which could be practical steps to sort out your problem, an apology, or compensation.
Complaining in Northern Ireland
Consumer complaints about energy suppliers are dealt with by the Consumer Council in Belfast.
The Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation is the energy regulator in Northern Ireland.