MILLIONS of prepayment customers will pay less for energy as a major supplier is lowering how much it charges.
British Gas is introducing a change to prices for prepayment customers from April 1.
British Gas is introducing new lower prices for prepayment customers from April 1
People who use energy on a “pay as you go” basis are charged around £45 a year more than those who pay via bills.
Some of the most hard-up households are on prepayment meters and the unfair price difference has been dubbed a “poverty premium”.
The decision by British Gas to no longer charge homes with prepayment meters more, comes after the Chancellor’s spring budget, which promised to abolish the difference for all 4million prepayment meters.
Households across the country will see their prices lowered to match costs of those who are billed by direct debit from July.
But British Gas has made the decision to roll out this change early passing on a total saving of well over £10 million to its prepayment customers over the next three months.
The yearly saving for British Gas prepayment customers getting both gas and electricity from the supplier will be £59 for an average dual fuel bill.
Chris O’Shea, boss of British Gas owner Centrica “We know that more help is needed for prepayment customers, and we support the Government’s decision to lower prepayment prices to the same level as direct debit customers.
“We wanted to do more to support this group of customers by introducing this change as soon as we could so British Gas prepayment customers will benefit immediately.”
British Gas has around 1.24 million customers with prepayment meters.
Around 158,000 only have electricity prepayment meters and will not benefit from the change.
The move comes as regulator Ofgem reviews how British Gas and others have been treating customers unable to pay their bills.
Data shows that more than 94,000 prepayment meters were forcibly installed last year without consent when a customer had not paid their bill.
Around seven in 10 of those installations were carried out on behalf of British Gas, Scottish Power, or Ovo Energy.
Business Secretary Grant Schapps vowed to crack down on the scandal and issued an ultimatum to “bully-boy” energy firms forcing them to declare how much compensation they would be paying to customers affected by the forced installations.
He said: “I am appalled that vulnerable customers struggling with their energy bills have had their homes invaded and prepayment metres installed when there is a clear duty on suppliers to provide them with support.
“They need to refocus their efforts on their consumers, the British public, who are at the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour.
“I’m also concerned the regulator is too easily having the wool pulled over their eyes by taking at face value what energy companies are telling them.
“They need to also listen to customers to make sure this treatment of vulnerable consumers doesn’t happen again.”
How to get help with your energy bills
If you are struggling with energy bills there is help available, and some energy suppliers are offering cash grants to those hardest hit by the increases.
You will need to contact your supplier directly to see what they offer and if you are eligible and much you can get.
British Gas, E.ON, Octopus, and Ovo all have grants available, here we have a guide to what is available and how you can claim.
British Gas Energy Support Fund – up to £1,500
You do not need to be a British Gas customer to apply for this fund – you can be a British Gas Customer or a customer from another supplier and you could get a grant worth up to £1,500.
EDF Customer Support Fund
The EDF fund can help customers who are in debt or facing financial difficulties. In order to get a cash grant from EDF you’ll need to register for its priority services.
Scottish Power Hardship Fund – up to £750
Customers could get up to £750 in grants from Scottish power. You can apply for this fund if you’re receiving income support, job seekers allowance, pension credit, or employment and support allowance.
Octopus Energy Assist Fund
Octopus Energy offers a number of support options based on circumstances and needs. You can contact Octopus via its website.
Customers of both E.ON and E.ON Next can apply for cash grants to help with their energy costs.
E.ON doesn’t have an established eligibility criteria but the Fund aims to help as many people as possible and applications from individuals with the greatest needs will be prioritised.
Ovo customers who are struggling as a result of soaring energy prices can access a £50million customer support package.
The package includes a debt repayment holiday for prepayment meter customers and free energy-saving products for customers’ homes.
You can apply for the support online or via the app.
Other help available
As well as help with energy bills other support is also available such as fuel vouchers and emergency credit.
Fuel Vouchers – worth £50
The fuel voucher scheme comes via the Fuel Bank Foundation charity, and it’s offered through a range of organisations, like food banks and Citizens Advice.
The best place to start to find somewhere which can offer you a fuel voucher is by asking your local council – you can find yours via gov.uk by searching your postcode.
Emergency credit – worth £10
Energy companies usually offer emergency credit, though you will have to pay this back.
How much you get and how it’s applied will depend on who your supplier is.
Free electric blankets
Octopus is dishing out free electric blankets this winter to help customers keep warm while bills stay high.
You’ll have to apply to see if you qualify on the Octopus website and there are 10,000 blankets up for grabs.
You could get a brand new boiler installed free of charge from your energy company if you are on a low income, or considered a vulnerable customer.
A number of suppliers offer the freebie, but their eligibility criteria may vary.
Not many providers let you apply online, so you need to call direct to get started.