Plug the Debt
Recent energy price rises, along with other rising costs and falling incomes, have left many people struggling to pay their energy bills. With the extra cost of winter heating bills ahead we’re worried many more people may go into debt to their energy supplier.
It can be a daunting reality to be unable to afford your bill, with many consumers unaware of where to turn for help and what their next steps should be. That’s why Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are launching the joint campaign, ‘Plug the Debt’. The new drive aims to raise consumers’ awareness of what to do and what their rights are when they fall behind on their energy bills.
Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are making people aware of the following 5 top tips if they fall behind with their bills:
- Always contact your energy supplier as soon as you realise you might have trouble with paying. Debts will build-up and be harder to pay off the longer you leave them. Your supplier has a responsibility to help you if you have problems paying your bill.
- Tell your energy firm what you can afford to pay – they have to take this into account in agreeing repayments of the money you owe.
- Ask your energy company, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99 to find out about other free energy help available. For example you could qualify for a discount off your bill or free insulation to help your home stop leaking heat and cut your bills.
- Even if you are in debt you may still be able to switch to a cheaper deal with your current supplier, especially if you pay by cash, cheque or pre-payment meter. If you pay by pre-payment meter and have less than £200 of debt you can also switch to a cheaper deal with another supplier.
- Financial help is available which could make it easier to afford your bills – check you are receiving all of the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to by getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or visiting www.adviceguide.org.uk.
Where to go for help:
Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau can offer impartial information, advice and help if you are struggling with your energy bills. Advisers may be able to help you to find out:
- whether you qualify for a discount off your bill or free insulation to help stop your home leaking heat and cut your bills
- if you are missing out on extra financial help
Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or look in the phone book to find your local branch, or contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06. Helpful information can also be found on the Citizen’s Advice Big Energy Week webpages and adviceguide.
The Energy Best Deal scheme, also run by Citizens Advice and Ofgem, offers face-to-face advice sessions, which help people to shop around and switch, reduce their bills, and get help if they are falling behind on payments. Extra advice is also available online through six new help films.
Consumer Focus has a range of online help and advice. See our energy help section. Help available includes:
- Leaflets on what to do when you’re having difficulty paying your bills and how to find out if you’re missing out on free services and other benefits
- A template letter to send to your supplier if you are finding the amount they are asking you to repay each month / quarter difficult to afford
- A question and answer search tool to help with information and advice over a wide range of energy issues
Your local Age UK could offer advice and information if you’re having trouble paying your energy bills, tell you about help available and check whether you may be entitled to cash benefits and to low cost or no cost home improvements.
Your energy firm:
Your energy firm has to help you to repay the amount owed at a rate that’s affordable to you. The customer service contact details for different energy companies are below:
British Gas Tel: 0800 048 0202
EDF Energy Tel: 0800 096 9000
E.ON Tel: 0845 059 9905
npower Tel: 0845 070 4851 (monthly direct debit) 0845 070 4850 (cash, cheque or quarterly direct debit customers) 0845 070 4853 (pre-payment meter customer)
SSE Group Tel: 0845 7444 555 (SSE and Southern Electric) 0845 300 2141 (Scottish Hydro) 0800 052 5252 (SWALEC) 0845 073 3030 (Atlantic)
Scottish Power Tel: 0845 270 0700
Co-operative Energy Tel: 0800 954 0693
Ebico Tel: 0800 458 7689
Ecotricity Tel: 0845 555 7100 (domestic customers)
First Utility Tel: 0845 215 5000
Good Energy Tel: 0845 601 14104
Green Energy Tel: 0800 783 8851
Ovo Tel: 0800 5996 4440
Spark Energy Tel: 0845 034 7474
Utilita Tel: 0845 450 4357
Utility Warehouse Tel: 0844 815 7777
Further help on energy efficiency and energy savings:
You can contact Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 or the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 for advice on saving energy and grants and schemes available to help make your home warmer and save you money.
Scottish consumer can also visit Money Advice Scotland for more information on where to find their nearsest adviser.
Information for advisers:
Information for advice agency workers, and plug the debt campaign posters and leaflets can be found on our specialist adviser pages. If you do not have access to these please contact our consumer community team.