Gas and electricity arrears

Gas and electricity arrears

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If you're in arrears with your gas or electricity bills you may risk your supply being cut off, so this is a priority debt.

Ways to pay off your arrears

Contact your fuel supplier as soon as you're having difficulty paying your electricity or gas, to arrange how to pay off the arrears. A fuel supplier must follow standard licence conditions, which set out how it deals with customers who have problems paying.

The supplier must allow you to pay off the arrears at a rate you can afford, using the most suitable payment method for your personal and financial circumstances. If they don't, they may be going against their licence conditions.

Paying in monthly instalments

You may be able to pay off your arrears in monthly instalments in a payment plan. Your supplier will work out the amount you must pay on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. This will include an estimated amount for the fuel you currently use and an amount for the arrears.

Prepayment meters

If you're facing disconnection, or haven't been able to keep to a payment plan, the fuel supplier may offer to install a prepayment meter. You may have to accept a prepayment meter if you want to keep your gas or electricity supply. A prepayment meter will allow you to pay a fixed amount off your arrears at the same time as paying for the fuel you're currently using.

You pay for the fuel with a token or key (electricity) or a smart card (gas), which you have to get charged at local stores or garages. Some suppliers allow you to top up online, over the telephone or via an app. If you don't recharge your token, key or card, you will run out of fuel.

Disconnection

Your energy supplier can only consider cutting your supply if you are at least 28 days in arrears. Even then they must first offer you a chance to pay the arrears off over time. If you fail to agree or don't stick to the plan, you will usually first be offered the option of having a prepayment meter installed before they consider disconnecting your supply.

If you're a pensioner living alone or living with children under the age of 5 your supply may not be cut off between 1 October and 31 March. For the rest of the year; some of the biggest energy suppliers have entered into an agreement whereby they will never cut your energy supply if you are disabled or have long term health issues. These suppliers will also not disconnect you if you are experiencing serious financial hardship or have children living in your home.

You may be entitled to a winter fuel payment – check to see if you qualify in England & Wales or Northern Ireland.

Further help

For further help contact the:

If you've already complained to your energy supplier and you're not happy with their decision or they've not given you a decision within 8 weeks of complaining (or 6 weeks if the company is SSE) you can complain to the Ombudsman Services. This must be done within 9 months of submitting your original complaint. They can make contact with your energy supplier to either get them to reconsider their decision (if they agree that it is unsatisfactory), or they can get them to respond to your complaint in the first place.