You can switch even if you have up to £500 debt on your energy bill. Your debt will be passed onto your new supplier. They will arrange a repayment plan with you or arrange to pay off your debt through your prepayment meter.
Your supplier must give you information about their best tariffs. This information should be on every bill. Ask your supplier if you are on their most suitable tariff for you.
Switch to a standard meter
If you are using a prepayment meter, find out about switching to a standard meter.
The benefit of prepayment meters is that you know exactly how much you are spending. You can only use the energy that you have paid for in advance. They can help you to keep track of your spending.
But with a standard meter, you can choose from cheaper tariffs. You could save hundreds of pounds a year by switching to a better tariff.
You may need to pay to change to a standard meter.
If you are already in arrears, your supplier may ask you to repay your debt before they agree to switch your meter.
If you are in debt to your supplier
Most companies have a ‘vulnerable debt team’. Ask to speak to them if you have not been able to pay your bill. They can arrange a repayment plan. They will ask you about how much you can afford to pay and how much energy you use. They can also offer advice on how to use less energy at home.
If you have a prepayment meter, they will take part of each payment to pay off your debt over an agreed period.
For example, if you pay £5 into your meter, your supplier might use £1 to pay off your debt and put £4 towards your energy supply.
If you do not have a prepayment meter, your supplier will agree a repayment plan with you.
Suppliers usually ask for debt to be repaid within 12 months. They can extend this to 2 years for customers who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.
If you are finding it hard to keep on top of your energy bills, you can ask to pay using your benefits. This means that some of your benefit will be paid directly to your energy supplier. These payments are called ‘third party deductions’. You can use these to pay off your energy debt and your regular bill.
You can use the following benefits:
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Talk to your JobCentre Plus or Pension Centre to make an application. Your energy supplier may be able to apply on your behalf. Ask your supplier about paying your bill using your benefits. Some suppliers call this a ‘Fuel Direct’ scheme.
Warning Third party deductions reduce your benefits
Paying your energy bill from your benefits gives you a secure energy supply, but you will have less money in each benefit payment. Get advice if you are worried about getting into debt. Debt advice is free.
Some suppliers offer grants to help you pay off energy debt. Most of the bigger suppliers use Let’s Talk to manage grants on their behalf. Other companies run their own schemes. Your supplier will want to see that you have tried all other means of paying off your debt before you apply.
You can contact your gas or electricity supplier for advice. Ask to speak to their Energy Efficiency team. They can give you advice about making your home more energy efficient. They will ask very detailed questions to work out where you could make savings.
Before you get in touch, make a note of:
your appliances, including the make, model and energy efficiency rating (look for a sticker on the appliance)
how often you use hot water, for showers, baths or washing up
how often your heating is on
the size of your house
how often you use appliances such as your oven, washing machine or microwave
Find your recent bills. These should tell you how much you’ve used in the last month, what type of meter you have and which tariff you are on.
Help from your supplier to make your home more efficient
If you receive certain benefits, you can get help to improve your home under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This includes Disability Living Allowance. Your supplier could pay for improvements such as loft or wall insulation, or more efficient heating. They could also help to replace inefficient white goods, like fridges and washing machines.
If you live in social housing, the local authority or housing association should provide energy efficient homes. This includes proper insulation and draught proofing. Contact your Housing Officer if you think your home could be more energy efficient.
Using less energy
The UK Power running costs calculator can help you work out:
how much you spend on each appliance per month
how much you could save by switching to a cheaper tariff
If you have an Economy 7 meter, you will pay less for your electricity at night. Set your large appliances, such as your washing machine or dishwasher, to run at night to make use of the cheaper tariff.