With wholesale gas prices increasing, energy firms announcing price rises, and multiple firms closing, we’ve been inundated with questions about how this impacts you and what to do if you’re affected.
Here we answer some of your most common questions.
Has your supplier failed? Find out what to do if your supplier has stopped trading.
Will my energy bill go up because of higher wholesale gas prices?
If you’re on a variable deal, your price can change whenever your supplier increases (or cuts) its prices. You’ll get 30 days’ warning of this change.
Up to 15 million customers faced a bill increase from 1 October 2021. That’s because the price caps on out-of-contract energy deals rose, adding £139 on average to annual bills – more if you have a prepayment meter or use lots of energy.
If you’re on a fixed deal, your rates can’t change until it ends. But when it does you might struggle to find a deal as cheap as the one you’re on.
The price cap will likely increase again in April 2022, by as much as 30% according to some analysts.
This is partly due to high wholesale prices, but also thanks to the costs of energy suppliers closing. The providers which take on their customers can claim back some of the costs of doing this. This is spread across all energy suppliers – and their customers. Outstanding renewables payments from failed suppliers are also shared across surviving firms.
What if I can’t afford a bigger energy bill?
‘I’m more worried about the energy price hike than literally anything else right now for the direct and substantial effect it will have on low-income families.’ – Twitter user
Help is available if you’re worried you’ll struggle to pay higher energy bills.
Start by contacting your energy supplier. It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but the company won’t cut off your supply if you work with it to agree how much you can pay.
Energy firms must agree a payment plan with you that you can afford. Options can include:
- Reviewing your payments or debt repayments
- Reducing your payments or taking a payment break
- Allowing more time to pay
- Access to hardship funds.
Also ask whether you can be added to its Priority Services Register. This gives free help and support if you’re in a vulnerable situation.
Check whether you are eligible for government schemes and benefits:
- The Warm Home Discount is £140 off your electricity bills if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit. You might also qualify if you have a low income.
- The Cold Weather Payment is £25 for each seven days between November and April that it’s below 0°C. Certain benefits qualify you for this.
- The Winter Fuel Payment is £200 if you’re over 66 or £300 if you’re over 80. You should get it automatically if you get the State Pension.
Will my energy supplier fail?
Twelve energy suppliers have stopped trading in the past two months: Avro Energy, Colorado Energy, Daligas, Green, Hub Energy, Igloo Energy, MoneyPlus Energy, People’s Energy, PFP Energy, Pure Planet, Symbio Energy and Utility Point.
There are rumours that others are in trouble. Jonathan Brearley, CEO of Ofgem, said it has already seen hundreds of thousands of customers affected and the final numbers ‘may well go well above that. It’s very hard for me to put a figure on it.’
It’s not unusual for a few energy suppliers to close their doors in autumn and winter. However Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, warned that there may be more than usual this year.
If your supplier does stop trading, there’s a process in place to find you a new supplier and honour any credit you have.
If my energy supplier fails, will my gas and electricity be cut off?
No. Your gas and electricity supplies will continue as usual if your energy supplier stops trading.
Ofgem will find a new supplier and you’ll be automatically transferred. That company will then contact you, and you’ll start paying it for your gas and electricity usage.
If you have a prepayment meter, any credit you’ve already loaded onto your meter can be used as normal. The new supplier will send you a new key, card or other equipment to top up your meter as a priority.
If you need to top up before you’re sent a new key or card, contact your new supplier for help.
Read more about whether prepayment meters are right for you.
If my energy supplier fails, will I have to pay more?
‘We had a fixed rate deal (ending Feb) with one of the failed energy companies and we’ve been switched to a firm who has put us on a variable tariff. Don’t they have to honour existing fixes?’ – Twitter user
Unfortunately, if your energy supplier fails, you will probably have to pay more.
Your fixed deal was a contract with your old supplier. It does not apply to the new supplier chosen for you.
Some of the recently-failed suppliers had offered quite cheap energy deals. Last year, when you may have chosen your tariff, gas prices were low. They have risen more than 250% since January, according to industry group Oil & Gas UK.
That means energy companies aren’t currently selling deals as cheaply as they were in the past.
If your supplier closes, you’ll be moved to a new supplier and put onto its ‘deemed’ tariff. This tariff is one you haven’t chosen, so you can stay on it for as long (or short) a time as you choose and won’t be charged exit fees to leave.
However, these tariffs can cost more. This is because ‘the supplier takes on more risk’, explains energy regulator Ofgem. For example, it might have to buy extra wholesale energy at short notice for new customers. Wholesale energy is pricey at the moment.
You can ask the new supplier to put you on its cheapest tariff. Make sure you use Which? Switch to check the prices of tariffs on sale at the moment. Unlike some commercial switching sites, Which? Switch shows the whole market, so even if we can’t move you to the cheapest supplier, you’ll know where to find it and can contact the company directly to switch.
Read tips on how to get the best energy deal.
I’m with a small energy supplier – should I switch?
If you’re on a cheap fixed deal, now is not the time to switch energy supplier.
We’ve seen cheap deals disappear from sale over the past couple of months, so you’re very unlikely to find any deals at the same rates you’re paying now. Those rates (your daily standing charge and unit price) will be fixed until the end of your contract.
But if you’re on a variable deal and have been told the price is increasing, then it’s worth comparing gas and electricity prices using Which? Switch to check how your rates compare. At the moment price-capped variable deals are some of the cheapest options so it can be worth moving automatically onto your supplier’s out-of-contract rate when your fixed deal ends.
If your small supplier stops trading, then you’ll be moved to another supplier – read more above.
If my energy supplier fails, what should I do?
‘My energy supplier ceased trading – I have just been informed. I’m confused as to know what to do – will I get my supply terminated?’ – Which? member
‘I received a general email earlier this week saying the company has ceased trading. I’ve cancelled my direct debit. Do I need to take any other action at this point or wait until I hear about transfer scheme arrangements under the government scheme. What happens now?’ – Which? member
Don’t panic. Your gas and electricity supply won’t be cut off. Any credit you have will be protected.
You will be moved to a new supplier, chosen by energy regulator Ofgem. It usually takes a couple of days for a new supplier to be chosen, and a couple of weeks to be transferred.
The new supplier will get in touch with you to tell you about your new tariff, how payments will work and how you’ll get any credit back.
While you wait:
- Take a meter reading (take a photo if possible so you have a dated record)
- Don’t switch supplier (this can make it trickier to transfer you and pay back any money you’re owed).
I can’t access my energy account online: what should I do?
‘My energy company recently collapsed. As soon as I heard, I attempted to go into the company’s website and download copies of my bills but they had already closed down the website. As far as I am aware I am in credit on my account but I am not sure by how much. I have no way of checking if what I am offered by the new supplier is the right amount.’ – Which? member
It’s a good idea to download and bills and statements if your energy supplier closes so that you have them for your records.
But we’ve heard from some customers who have been unable to log in to their online account after their supplier stopped trading. Some failed suppliers take their website services offline.
Check back again later, or on another day. Some people have found that their account is up and running again (and even that the new supplier asks you to submit meter readings using it).
If not, wait until your new supplier contacts you. Your account records should be passed onto the new supplier so they can confirm how much credit or debt balance you have.
What happens to my Warm Home Discount payment if my supplier closes?
If you’re in the ‘core’ group for the Warm Home Discount (ie you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit) then you should continue to get your payment from the new supplier.
This should happen automatically. The Department for Work and Pensions works with suppliers to identify customers who get Pension Credit.
You should get a letter between October and December telling you how to get the discount. If you don’t, or you’re unsure whether you will qualify, contact the Warm Home Discount helpline on 0800 731 0214.
If the new supplier chosen for you is very small, it may not have to pay the Warm Home Discount and you may lose your payment. However, this is unlikely – Ofgem has not typically chosen very small replacement suppliers and it takes into account the supplier’s ability to make the payments when it’s choosing which company will take over your supply.
If you’re in the ‘broader’ group for the Warm Home Discount, you’ll need to reapply to your new electricity supplier.
You’ll be in the broader group if you don’t get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit but are on a low income and get certain means-tested benefits. Around one million people get the £140 payment in this group.
Energy suppliers have different criteria for who is eligible for payments in their ‘broader’ group. Some smaller suppliers don’t make payments to those in the ‘broader’ group.
If you qualified with your old supplier, ask your new supplier whether you will qualify with it too. Be prepared to reapply.
It’s worth applying as soon as you can, because the number of payments available from each supplier can be limited.
British Gas said that former customers of People’s Energy who received the Warm Home Discount in 2020/21 will be added to its Warm Home Discount as long as it received the information. You can check when your account is set up.
EDF Energy said that former Utility Point customers who are eligible for EDF’s ‘support plus’ scheme can apply once their accounts are fully migrated to EDF. There will be a maximum number of applications it can accept though.