Contact your energy supplier as soon as possible if you're having problems paying your energy bills. You can usually negotiate an alternative to disconnection.
Agree the amount you owe
Gas and electricity bills are often based on estimated meter readings.
Before you start negotiations with your energy supplier, take an up-to-date meter reading from your gas or electricity meter.
Contact your energy supplier and ask for the bill to be recalculated based on the new meter reading.
Agree a repayment plan
Ask if your supplier will arrange a weekly, fortnightly or monthly payment plan. The amount you pay will include an:
- estimated amount for the fuel you use
- amount for the arrears
Make sure you only agree to pay an amount you can manage. Your supplier shouldn't try to get you to clear the arrears any faster than you can afford to.
Pay arrears direct from your benefits
You can ask to have your fuel bill and arrears paid directly from any of the following benefits:
- income support
- jobseeker's allowance
- employment and support allowance
- pension credit
An amount is deducted from your regular benefit payment and paid to your fuel supplier every three months. This is called Fuel Direct.
This option may help you to budget for your fuel costs over the year. It spreads the cost of winter bills. It could make the difference between having the heating on or not.
Contact a welfare benefits adviser if you have trouble setting up Fuel Direct.
Find out more from Gov.uk about paying bills using your benefits.
Have a prepayment meter installed
If you are behind with your payments, your energy supplier may insist you have a prepayment meter as an alternative to disconnection.
Prepayment meters are used to buy fuel in advance. The meters can be set to recover fuel debts, as well as to pay for the gas or electricity you use.
A prepayment meter is usually the most expensive way to pay for energy costs.
You pay to 'top up' a payment card in a shop and this is used to transfer credit to your gas or electricity meter. You can only use your gas or electricity if you have topped up your meter.
Problems paying fuel bills
If you have problems with fuel bills or debt you can get face-to-face help from specialist Shelter advisers, funded by the British Gas Energy Trust, at several locations in England and Scotland. The initiative is part of a wider partnership between British Gas and Shelter to improve homes in the private rented sector, including help with the cost of energy-saving home improvements. You can also contact the Energy Saving Trust for information on similar services provided by other energy providers.
Last updated 01 Jan 2015 | © Shelter
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