Energy Debt Advice
Are You Struggling to Afford Your Energy Bills?
Are your energy costs spiralling out of control? Are you afraid to turn on the heating because you can’t afford to pay your energy bills? Perhaps you’re making hard choices between heating or affording essentials like food and clothing.
You’re not alone. Millions of people in the UK are living in fuel poverty and this number continues to increase, due to rising energy bills and the cost of living crises. You might be wondering if there is an end in sight. You may even have considered stopping your direct debit with your energy supplier.
In fact, some campaigns have been advising energy consumers to do just that. But what are the consequences of doing so, and are there better solutions out there?
What Happens If I Stop Paying My Energy Bills?
A household is classed as ‘fuel poor’ if it has above-average energy costs, and if paying those costs would push it below the poverty line as far as its remaining income was concerned. As a general rule-of-thumb, many people class fuel poverty as having to spend more than 10% of your income on fuel for your home.
Fuel poverty affects the unemployed, people on low incomes, and people living in energy-inefficient properties. The Fuel Poverty Energy Efficiency Rating system measures the energy efficiency of a property, ranking dwellings from A to G, with A being the most efficient and G being the lowest.
What Happens If I Stop Paying My Energy Bills?
Stopping the direct debit or manual payment of your energy bills may seem like the easiest way to save money when you’re struggling, but there are consequences for doing so. Let’s take a look so that you think twice about this desperate measure and seek an alternative solution.
Energy Contract Customers: If you stop paying your energy bills, the debt will start building up right away. It’s important that you understand your energy supplier’s terms and conditions and the consequences of running up debt with them.
Credit Meter Customers: If you miss payments on your account, this may lead to penalties from your supplier, such as loss of discounts or the installation of a prepayment meter.
Prepayment Meter Customers: If you fail to top-up your meter, your energy supplier could cut off your supply completely. Daily standing charges will also build up leading to more debt.
The Impact on Your Finances and Credit Rating
Non-payment of your energy bills could also damage your credit rating. The consequences may include:
Defaults on your credit report
Involvement of debt collection agencies
Potential county court judgements - these stay on record for six years and can have a severe impact on your credit rating
Difficulty in being approved for credit in the future, including mortgages, personal loans, and credit/store cards
Positive Steps You Can Take If You’re Struggling to Pay
Stopping your energy payments may seem like the easiest thing to do, especially in a desperate moment, but the consequences may cause you to think again.
Fortunately, there are other steps you can take that are more likely to keep you in good standing with your energy company and cause minimal damage to your credit rating.
Engage With Your Supplier
Contact your supplier as soon as you run into difficulties. You’ll find their details on your most recent bill or on their website. Many companies now offer an online chat service if you’d rather this option.
Provide meter readings if possible. Your energy company will do what they can to help. After all, they want to keep you as a customer.
Explore the Options Available to You
Here are some of the options you may have available to you:
Negotiate a payment plan
Extend the time to make a payment
Request a smaller amount to pay now and let you settle the rest later
You can request an account review to ensure your bill is accurate
You can inform them of any vulnerable individuals or health conditions in the household
You can lodge a complaint about meter or supplier issues for possible compensation
Paying Only Part of the Bill
It’s always worth asking your supplier if you can make part payments. Most companies would prefer to receive some payment rather than none at all. Partial payment with regular communication can reduce the chance of stressful debt recovery proceedings being started against you.
Difficulty Engaging with Your Supplier?
In rare cases, the energy supplier may not want to enter into a payment agreement or consider anything other than full payment. There are still some things you can do:
What Additional Support is Available?
Remember, communication is so important. Your energy company won’t realise you are struggling unless you let them know. Nobody will judge you.
By the end of the call, you could have arranged a payment plan that allows you to keep your home warm and comfortable while managing your energy costs.
How Energy Saving Grants Can Help
Another option you may want to consider to keep your energy costs in check is to apply for an energy saving grant.
Our energy efficiency advisors would be able to inform you if you are eligible for a grant. Please complete your contact details in the grant checker and an advisor will be in touch.