How to avoid gas and electricity disconnection

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.

To set up these payments, contact Jobcentre Plus or your pension centre if you're on pension credit.

Contact a welfare benefits adviser if you have trouble setting up Fuel Direct. Contact Citizens Advice for benefits advice and information.

Find out more from 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.

Last updated 01 Jan 2015 | © Shelter

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