With the rising cost of living in the UK, many households are feeling the squeeze on their budgets. One of the most significant expenses for households are utility bills like energy and water bills, which can take up a large portion of monthly expenditure.
It can be challenging to keep up with these bills, and many people are finding themselves struggling to make ends meet.
Ways your energy supplier can offer help with your energy bills
There are several ways your energy supplier can offer help to ease your financial burden. Here are five ways your energy company can assist you directly if you’re struggling to pay your bills.
Sticking to the energy price guarantee
If you’re an energy company in the UK, you need to stick to the government-mandated energy price guarantee that ensures your prices won’t increase beyond a certain level.
At present, the UK Government has guaranteed energy prices won’t go above a rate that equates to £2,500 annually. This rate was recently extended to last until June 2023, which means that you won’t have to worry about sudden price hikes and can budget accordingly.
Reviewing your gas or electricity bill to make it more affordable
Your energy company may be able to review your energy usage and suggest ways to reduce your bills. They may also offer you more affordable payment options, such as switching to a direct debit payment plan or paying your bills in installments.
Offering you a payment break
If you’re struggling to make payments, your energy supplier may offer you a payment break. This means that you won’t have to pay anything for a certain period, giving you time to get your finances back on track.
Reducing your unpaid balance or offering you a more affordable payment plan
If you have an outstanding balance, your energy company may offer you a more affordable payment plan. This could involve reducing your monthly payments or spreading your outstanding balance over a longer period.
Giving you more time to repay what you owe
If you’re struggling to repay what you owe, your energy supplier may be able to give you more time to pay. This could involve extending your payment period or deferring payments until you’re in a better financial position.
Dealing with energy suppliers if you’re a vulnerable person
If you’re a vulnerable person, you may be entitled to additional support from energy suppliers in the UK. Vulnerable customers can include:
- Those who receive certain disability benefits
- Those who have particular mental health needs
- People who have reached state pension age
- Pregnant people or parents with children under the age of 5
If you’re a vulnerable person and believe you may be entitled to additional support from your energy supplier, it’s worth contacting them directly to find out what help is available.
Many energy suppliers have dedicated teams that can provide advice and assistance to vulnerable customers. They may also be able to offer you special tariffs, payment plans, or other forms of support to help you manage your energy bills.
Ways the Government can help with your energy bills
The UK government and energy suppliers often work in tandem to provide assistance to people who need help paying their bills. There are several Government schemes available to help individuals and families dealing with unaffordable bills.
Warm home discount
This scheme provides a one-off discount of £140 (for the winter of 2022-2023) on your electricity bill between September and March. This discount is available to low-income households, those who receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, and some other eligible groups.
Cold weather payments
If you receive certain benefits, such as Pension Credit or Income Support, you may be eligible for Cold Weather Payments. These payments are made when the temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days, between November and March. You’ll receive a payment of £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather.
Winter fuel payment
This payment is an annual tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 (depending on your circumstances) to help with your heating costs during the winter. It’s available to individuals who were born on or before 5 October 1954 and who meet certain other criteria.
Energy bills support scheme (Energy bills discount scheme)
This scheme offers a discount on your energy bill of up to £140 (for the winter of 2022-2023) if you’re on a low income and receive certain benefits. The scheme is available to households in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Check if you’re entitled to additional Government support
Even if you’re not entitled to support with your energy bills, there are other forms of support available to low income people in the UK that can help boost your income.
The UK government offers general financial support in the form of benefits to individuals and families who meet certain criteria.
This is a means-tested benefit that provides financial support to individuals and families who are on a low income or are out of work. Universal Credit replaces a range of other benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, and Working Tax Credit.
This is an example of means-tested benefits that provides additional income to pensioners who are on a low income.
Pension Credit is made up of two parts: Guarantee Credit (which tops up your weekly income to a minimum amount) and Savings Credit (which rewards those who have some savings or a small pension).
Cost of living payment
This is a series of payments to individuals and families who receive certain benefits and who are struggling with the rising cost of living in the UK. Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to up to 3 Cost of Living Payments of £301, £300 and £299.
Council tax deduction
This is a means-tested reduction in the council tax bill owed to your local council. The amount you can claim depends on your income, your household circumstances, and the amount of council tax you’re required to pay.
To find out if you’re eligible for any of these benefits or reductions, you can contact your local Jobcentre Plus, the Pension Service, or your local council. They’ll be able to provide you with further information and help you with your application.
What can I do if my bills are wrong?
If you believe there is a fault in your bills, you can try the following:
- Check your bill — has an inaccurate meter reading been listed? Is the correct address listed?
- Check the meter reference listed on your bill to be sure it shows correctly and that the right meter has been billed.
- Switch off all your appliances. If the meter is still moving there’s definitely a problem so you should take that up with your supplier.If the meter stops then turn your appliances on one at a time and monitor the meter. If the meter moves especially quickly for a particular appliance there may be a problem with the appliance rather than the meter.
You may wish to go somewhere like CAB for further advice.
How do I remove my name from bills?
If the bills are in joint names you would have had the power to contact the utility provider to remove your name from the bill. The utility provider should be able to find the account based on address and postcode.
If you moved out, it will be up to you to provide proof of the fact that you moved out of the property 2 years ago in order for your name to be removed from the bill.
Please read our article on what to do if someone is using your address.
Am I liable for a bill that is not mine?
If you are the named account holder then you will be fully liable for the bills.
If you no longer live at the property and are still being asked to pay the bills, you should contact the relevant companies to explain your situation.
For more tips on managing your bills, please see our article on how to tackle rising energy bills.