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What should I do if I’m having problems paying my energy bills because of coronavirus?

What should I do if I’m having problems paying my energy bills because of coronavirus?

We understand that many of you are worried about being able to afford your energy bills, especially as spending more time at home means you’re using more gas and electricity. The energy industry is working with the Government to help households affected by the coronavirus outbreak. We look at what support is available.

Peter Earl
From the Energy team
5
minute read
posted 14 MAY 2020

Please note: The information in this article was correct at the time of publication on 14 May 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated as regularly as possible for you, but please check with your current energy supplier, or potential new supplier, directly to confirm any details.

What help is available from energy providers?

The Government and energy suppliers have launched an emergency package, to make sure anyone vulnerable doesn’t suffer hardship with heating or lighting their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.
 
If you’re struggling to pay for your gas or electricity, you may have the following options to help:

  • support reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
  • take payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
  • providers may give you more time to pay
  • receive access to hardship funds

Thankfully, the Government has reassured energy customers that no credit meters will be disconnected during the coronavirus outbreak.
 
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the deal with energy suppliers would mean “the most in need can rest assured that a secure supply of energy will continue to flow into their homes during this difficult time”.

What happens if I can’t go out to top up my prepayment meter?

If you’re unable to top up your meter, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible, to discuss how you can stay connected. This includes if you can’t get to a shop because you’re ill with coronavirus or following guidance to stay at home and self-isolate. Here are some options which could help to keep you supplied:

  • asking a friend or family member to top up your prepayment card for you
  • having discretionary funds added to your account
  • receive a preloaded top-up card in the post

If your meter is outside, Ofgem recommends leaving your meter box unlocked, if this can be done safely. That means someone else can top it up for you. Where possible, arrange for a family member, friend or neighbour to take your top-up card to the shop. Please make sure it’s been sanitised first though, to avoid risk to others.

What happens if my local shop where I usually top up is closed?

If your local top-up shop closes, you should look for an alternative vendor that has a PayPoint or Payzone facility.

The Post Office can also provide top-ups for some suppliers. Alternatively, contact your supplier, who should be able to help you.

Smart meter customers should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, app or online.

Who should I contact if I can’t pay my energy bills? 

If you’re struggling to pay for your gas and electricity, you should contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill, although please be aware that they’re receiving a high volume of calls at the moment. Some energy providers are asking their customers to only contact them with prepayment meter issues or emergencies (e.g. no heating or hot water), so please keep this in mind and perhaps check for any advice from your provider online first, if possible.

You can also check out our useful energy supplier directory to find contact details. Your provider will work with you to agree a payment plan you can afford. This might include things like spreading your bills by direct debit over the year, or the possibility of allowing 30 days' extra breathing space for making payments.
 
As well as telling you about ways you can make affordable repayments, they should also check whether you’re on the most suitable tariff. You might also be able to get a better deal by comparing energy prices and switching suppliers. Switching services are currently unaffected, so you shouldn’t have any problems if you switch to a cheaper deal.

I’m using more energy because I’m now at home all day. What can I do?

Staying at home means you’re probably using more gas and electricity than normal. There are some simple steps you can take to save energy, such as turning down the thermostat by a degree or two, only filling the kettle with the amount of water you need and making sure you put a full load in your washing machine when you do your laundry.
 
We’ve put together some great ways to help you cut down your energy usage and save on your bills. Take a look at our energy-saving tips.

I’m not working because of coronavirus. How will I pay my energy bills?

Along with the emergency energy package put in place to help support people with their bills, the Government has also set out a raft of employment and financial support for workers. This includes Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, as well as your rights if your hours are cut or you’re laid off.

Will an engineer still be able to come out to my home?

You will still be able to call out an engineer in the event of an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown or burst pipe, but most routine appointments such as annual boiler services and meter readings have been cancelled. Don’t worry, these will be rearranged at a later date.

What’s happening with smart meter installations?

Unfortunately, all routine smart meter installations have been put on hold for the time being. If you’re on a tariff that requires you to get a smart meter fitted within three months, the rules have now been relaxed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
 
Npower says it will let its customers know when it can fit their smart meter and their tariff will stay the same in the meantime, while SSE is postponing all non-essential smart meter appointments until at least 1 May.

Pledges from the Big Six energy providers

Energy suppliers are offering help to customers who may struggle to pay their bills. Here's what the Big Six to providers have pledged so far:

Supplier Help available Helpline
British Gas British Gas is removing late payment charges for those struggling to pay their bills and has advised its most vulnerable prepayment customers to ask friends, family members or a neighbour to top up their meter for them if they need to self-isolate. If that’s not possible, they can access emergency credit or phone its helpline for advice. 0333 202 9802
EDF EDF says it has a raft of measures to help those in financial difficulties, such as alternative payment plans. It’s also advising prepayment customers who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help them top up if it’s safe, or it can send out top-up cards or keys preloaded with credit. 0333 200 5110
E.ON E.ON says it will only ask people to pay what they can afford, and measures include the possibility of allowing 30 days’ breathing space for making payments. If your electricity meter falls below 50p of emergency credit, or you're off supply for gas, it will send an engineer round to top up for you.
It has also extended emergency credit levels for customers with classic prepayment meters from £5 to £30, rising further to £50 from 1 April.
0345 052 0000
Npower Npower says it may offer payment plans and 30 days’ extra breathing space to customers struggling to pay their bills. It also advises topping up prepayment meters more than usual in advance, if possible, or asking a trusted person to help. 0800 073 3000
Scottish Power Scottish Power says it can review monthly payments and give access to its hardship fund for those facing financial difficulties. It has advised prepayment customers, who need to self-isolate, to ask a friend, neighbour or family member to top up for them, and add more credit to their meter than normal. 0800 027 0072
SSE SSE is asking those struggling to pay for their energy to call their helpline. It’s also encouraging prepayment customers to keep at least 14 days’ worth of credit on their meter in case they need to self-isolate. Where this isn’t possible, it says it can send cards and keys preloaded with credit to those unable to get to a shop. 0345 070 7373

See more on energy measures to support vulnerable people through COVID-19.

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