How to save on your energy bill
Help if you're struggling to pay your energy bill
Article 5 of 5
Help if you're struggling to pay your energy bill
Need help paying your energy bills? Read our tips to find out what help is available if you’re having problems.
Struggling to pay your energy bills? We’ll show you what you can do to get help.
Contact your current energy supplier as soon as possible if you’re struggling paying your gas or electricity bills and need help.
You’re not alone; around a million customers are in debt to their gas or electricity supplier, according to energy regulator Ofgem in October 2017.
Get in touch with your energy supplier to find out whether it can offer you any ways to reduce your bill, such as paying by monthly direct debit or signing up for an online tariff.
If you still can’t afford to pay, there are things you can do. Read on to find out more.
Help from energy suppliers
Contact your supplier to explain your situation and offer to pay an amount you can afford.
All energy suppliers follow a code of practice that means they must take certain steps before cutting off your supply. So they won't cut you off if you agree a regular payment plan with them and then keep to it. The number of customers disconnected for debt, or who have prepayment meters installed for debt, is falling after the energy regulator stepped in.
Check your energy company’s code of practice to find out its policy on helping customers who find themselves in difficult circumstances. You can do this by checking the About Us section of your gas or electricity supplier’s website, or by giving the company a ring on one of these specialist phone numbers:
- British Gas Priority Service Register 0800 072 8625 (or 0800 294 8604 if you are a pay-as-you-go customer)
- Eon Priority Services 0345 502 0000
- EDF Priority Service Register 0800 269450
- Npower Priority Services 0808 172 6999
- Scottish Power Priority Services Register 0800 027 0072
- SSE Careline and Priority Services Register 0800 622838
- Co-operative Energy Priority Services Register 0800 954 0693
- First Utility Priority Services Register 01926 320 700
- Ovo Energy Priority Register 0800 599 9440 (if you pay by direct debit) or 0800 358 3523 (if you have a prepayment meter)
- Utilita Customer Care Team 03303 337 456
- Utility Warehouse Priority Services Register 028 955 5557 (general customer services; there is no dedicated phone line)
Energy supplier payment plans
Energy suppliers should be willing to set up a payment plan for debt that suits you, even if you have been threatened with disconnection. Debt can be repaid through a variety of means including:
- Fuel Direct - a scheme where energy payments are made direct from state benefits (more information below)
- Prepayment meter - but sometimes you end up paying far more for energy, so ask about other options first and check if a prepayment meter is right for you
- All of the Big Six energy companies have set up independent charitable trusts to give grants to some customers to help them pay for fuel arrears.
You should also start taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use, which will cut what you have to pay on future bills. See our tips for using less electricity.
Energy bill problems
Inaccurate and erratic billing can cause people to inadvertently run up debts. For example, if you receive a large bill but it’s the first bill you’ve had for some time, contact your supplier.
It should be able to arrange repayment of the debt over the same period in which it accrued - so if you haven’t had a bill for 12 months, you could get 12 months to repay.
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 your rights on energy back-billing.
Since April 2018, back-billing has been banned by Ofgem. The only exception is if you actively prevent your supplier from taking or receiving accurate meter readings – by tampering with your meter, for example.
The energy regulator Ofgem revealed that customers in debt build up an average of £600 in unpaid gas and electricity bills before their energy supplier steps in to help them pay it back. Some suppliers let the debts build up to as much as £800.
Don’t wait for your energy supplier to step in; contact it when you know you’re struggling to pay your bills to stop a big debt building up.
Benefits and schemes to help with energy bills
There are a number of benefits and schemes that can provide help to pay your energy bill. Read on to find out whether you’re eligible.
Fuel Direct or third-party deductions
If you get income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Pension Creit or Universal Credit and are struggling to keep up with fuel or water bills, you can ask your benefits office to pay them directly out of your benefits.
Fuel Direct payments (also called third-party deductions) pay for your current energy use and an agreed amount of your unpaid bill each time your benefits are paid. Check your meter reading and then contact your local Jobcentre Plus or pension centre.
Winter Fuel Payment
Most people aged 63 or over can get a Winter Fuel Payment to help them pay for gas or electric heating in winter. This annual tax-free lump sum is normally paid from November and most payments are made by Christmas.
Depending on your age and circumstances, you could get between £100 and £300.
Warm Home Discount
For 2017-2018, this is worth £140 off your bill and applies to two groups:
- A core group - households that get the guarantee element of Pension Credit. Most of these households will be automatically identified by energy suppliers
- A 'broader group' - the definition of these vary from supplier to supplier, but can include those on low income or in receipt of certain means-tested benefits.
See our guide to the Warm Home Discount for full details of the eligibility criteria set by different energy suppliers. The 2017/18 scheme closed on 31 March 2018. The scheme for 2018/19 is expected to open on 15 October 2018.
Depending on your personal and financial situation, you could be eligible for benefits to help you keep up with your bills and household expenses. Check whether you qualify for financial help through the benefits system using the DirectGov website.
It's also worth exploring whether you're eligible for a boiler grant from the government, or even a free boiler. To find out more, go to can you get a free boiler?
More help with energy bills
- If you find yourself getting into debt trying to keep up with household bills, see our how to deal with debt guide for practical advice.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can also give you free, independent advice on dealing with debt.
- For advice and help with your heating bills, you can also contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699.
- National Debtline (0808 808 4000) offers free advice over the phone to people in England, Scotland and Wales.
- Step Change (0800 138 1111) is a charity which gives advice to help people overcome debt problems.