If you're finding it hard to afford your energy bills, there are several things you can do.
Contacting your supplier might feel like the last thing you want to do, but you’re not alone – research from Citizens Advice in December 2020 found that 2.1 million households were behind on their energy bills.
Get in touch with your energy supplier to find out whether it can help you reduce your bill, such as paying by monthly direct debit or signing up for an online tariff.
If you're still finding it difficult to pay, there are other things you can do. Read on to find out more.
If you miss a payment, your energy supplier won't disconnect your gas and electricity at the moment. But if you don't top-up your prepayment meter, your supply might still stop.
Contact your energy supplier if you're struggling to pay, rather than cancelling your direct debit.
It must work with you to agree a payment plan that you can afford. Options vary between suppliers but you can ask for:
Try and agree a deal that works for both you and your supplier. You can also ask to be added to the Priority Services register - this offers free help and support if you are in a vulnerable situation.
If you have a prepayment meter and can't top it up, contact your supplier to work out how to keep your energy supply. Options can include:
Bear in mind that you'll eventually need to pay back any credit your supplier gives you.
Contact your supplier to explain your situation, and offer to pay an amount you can afford.
Energy suppliers must take certain steps before cutting off your supply. Your supplier won't cut you off if you agree a regular payment plan with it and then stick to it. Usually a payment plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use.
It should take into account:
Your energy supplier may need to ask about your income, debt and personal circumstances to work this out. They can estimate future energy use based on what you've used previously.
You might be able to pay off what you owe through your benefits using the Fuel Direct scheme.
This takes a fixed payment automatically from your benefits to pay off your debt gradually, while paying towards your current energy use.
Pay-as-you go energy is one option to stay on top of your energy spend. Some energy suppliers might also ask you to have a prepayment meter installed if you don't keep up with your payments.
For winter 2021/22, 26 energy suppliers have promised to:
British Gas, Bulb, EDF, Eon, Octopus, Ovo, Scottish Power and Utilita are among the 26 companies.
Check your energy company’s code of practice to find out its policy on helping customers in difficult circumstances. Look in the help or FAQs section of its website, or phone the company:
Many of the biggest energy companies have independent charitable trusts to give grants to some customers to help them pay for fuel arrears.
Government schemes and benefits can also help make your bills more affordable:
Inaccurate and erratic billing can leave you in debt. If you get a large bill but it’s the first one you’ve had in a while, contact your supplier.
It should be able to arrange for you to repay the debt over the same time that it was built up (rather than demanding a big sum immediately). For example if you hadn't had a bill for 10 months, you could get 10 months to repay it.
Energy suppliers can’t back-bill you for energy you used more than 12 months ago, as long as they were at fault – for example, by not sending a bill when you asked, or billing you incorrectly. Find out more about .
The only exception is if you prevent your supplier from taking or receiving accurate meter readings – by tampering with your meter, for example.
Don’t wait for your energy supplier to get in touch. Contact it when you know you’re struggling to pay your bills to stop a big debt building up.