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19 Mar 2020

Help with energy bills announced by UK government

We also list the energy companies making commitments to customers during the coronavirus outbreak
Woman looking at energy bills

From today, all energy suppliers have agreed to emergency measures to help customers who are most at risk during the coronavirus crisis.

These include making sure that customers in vulnerable situations won't have their energy supply cut off while self-isolating, and extra support for prepayment and pay-as-you-go customers.

Any energy customer in financial distress will be supported by their energy supplier, the government has promised.

Keep reading to find out about how this affects you, plus other ways to cut your energy bills if you're spending more time at home.

Switching energy supplier can help you save around £300 in a year - compare gas and electricity prices with Which? Switch to get a quote based on your household's gas and electricity use.

Can I get help paying my energy bills?

If you're struggling to pay your gas or electricity bill as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the new measures announced by the government come into effect today.

Any customer in financial distress will be supported by their supplier, the government says. Different options will be offered by different energy firms, but could include:

  • Your debt payments being reassessed, reduced or paused
  • Your bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused.

Companies will not be allowed to disconnect credit meters.

Customers who are already known to be in need will be prioritised for help, but energy companies will also work to identify customers whose circumstances may have changed as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19.

It's vitally important that you contact your provider if you are struggling to cover your energy bill and don't simply cancel your monthly direct debit.

You can keep up to date with our latest advice on the coronavirus outbreak over on our coronavirus advice hub.

Prepayment and pay-as-you-go customers: what you need to know

If you have a prepayment meter and are not able to top it up, contact your supplier immediately. It will discuss options for how it can keep you on supply.

This may include:

  • Nominating someone else to top up for you
  • Having a discretionary fund added to your credit
  • Being sent a pre-loaded top-up card.

If you need someone to top up the meter for you, energy regulator Ofgem recommends that you leave your meter box unlocked.

If you have a smart meter, you should be able to top up by phone, mobile app or online. Check your supplier's website for how to set this up, or contact it for help.

What are the biggest energy companies doing to help customers?

Here's what some of the energy providers have committed to so far to help their customers during this time:

SupplierWhat are they doing?How to get help?
British GasIf you're in isolation and you can't top up online then call or use live chat to discuss your options. If you're struggling to pay your bills, British Gas will look at ways to help on a case-by-case basis. Contact it to find out more or check British Gas FAQsCall 0333 202 9802
Bulb EnergyIn some cases, Bulb Energy will be able to arrange for you to top up remotely or post a pre-loaded card/key. If you're struggling to pay your bills Bulb may be able to offer alternative payment methods and longer repayment periods. You can also go to Bulb's help centreCall 0300 30 30 635
EDF EnergyEDF operate a non-disconnection policy on most meters. So if you run out of credit after 6pm your electricity will not go off until 9am the next day. If you're worried about paying your bill contact it to discuss options. Each case will be looked at on an individual basis, but the extra support may include repayments made over a longer period of time, delay payment for a short period or offer alternative payment arrangements. Head to its personalised priority services for information on additional support for vulnerable customers. You can also visit EDF Energy FAQsCall 0333 200 5110
EonEon has extended emergency credit levels for gas customers with classic prepayment meters from £5 to £30. From 1 April, it will be increasing this to £50, but this credit will need to be paid back in order to reinstate customers' energy supply. Eon has said it will not disconnect anyone during this period for non-payment of energy bills. If you're struggling to pay your bill contact Eon and it will discuss your options based on your circumstances. Options include the possibility of allowing 30 days' extra breathing space for making payments. Read more at Eon FAQsCall 0345 052 0000
NpowerNpower is reassuring credit customers that it will not disconnect you during this period for non-payment of energy bills. If you're struggling to pay your bill, contact Npower to discuss your options. It may involve spreading your bills by Direct Debit over the year or the possibility of allowing 30 days' extra breathing space. If you're self-isolating and you can't top up your meter then contact Npower for help. It's in the process of increasing emergency credit to £45 and is looking at how best to get emergency keys to people who need them. Find out more via Npower FAQsCall 0800 073 3000
Ovo EnergyOvo customers who are most in need and eligible for support will be able to contact customer services directly for either emergency top-up credit or temporary payment reductions to their monthly payments.You can also check Ovo Energy FAQsCall 0330 303 5063
Scottish PowerIf you're in isolation and need to top up, or you're struggling to pay your bill, contact Scottish Power for help. Some solutions include reviewing monthly payments, having longer to pay, or support from the Scottish Power Hardship Fund. You can also check Scottish Power FAQsCall 0800 027 0072

Which? says

'Hardup energy customers will breathe a sigh of relief that these new emergency measures will protect them from steep bills and losing their energy supply during these uncertain times,' said Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services.

'If you are worried about your ability to pay your energy bill because of the impact of coronavirus on your circumstances, it's important to talk to your supplier as soon as possible to discuss your situation and find out what kind of support they can offer you.'

Other ways to save money on gas and electricity

Spending more time at home is likely to result in bigger energy bills, and you use more gas and electricity. Try these quick tips to keep your bills under control:

  • Use your heating controls to warm your home, use water only when you need it and only heat parts of your home you're using
  • Replace traditional light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs
  • Give your supplier regular meter readings (unless you have a smart meter to help ensure you only pay for the gas and electricity you're using
  • Cut draughts around windows, doors and loft hatches
  • Go paperless if you're happy to receive your bills by email or in an online account - some suppliers will offer a discount for this.
  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they're full, and dry washing outside where possible.

See more ways to save on energy bills