Struggling energy customers to get extra help to pay bills and top-up meters from tomorrow


STRUGGLING households will get extra help paying their energy bills and topping up their meters from tomorrow.

From December 15, suppliers will have to offer emergency credit to customers to top-up their prepayment meter if they can’t pay their bills.

Vulnerable customers will get more help to pay their energy bills from this week

As well as help for those struggling financially, customers will be eligible for support if they can’t get to their local shop to top-up because of a mobility issue or due to self-isolation.

Suppliers will also have to offer extra prepayment credit to households in vulnerable circumstances to provide more breathing space.

The new rules have been made permanent by regular Ofgem after providers voluntarily agreed to support vulnerable customers during the coronavirus crisis.

Ofgem hopes the new measures will reduce the number of prepayment customers who go without energy or “self-disconnect” after running out of credit on their meter.

Of the four million households using pay-as-you-go prepayment meters, where you top-up energy in advance, around one in seven (571,000) had self-disconnected their supply in the past 12 months, according to Ofgem.

Another new rule being introduced from tomorrow will see customers in energy debt put on on “realistic and sustainable” repayment plans.

This means suppliers will have to proactively contact customers and offer tailor-made help, rather than using blanket methods to set repayments.

Energy firms must also improve how they identify customers who are self-disconnecting or who might be self-rationing their energy use.

The new help comes after Ofgem lowered the maximum price suppliers can charge for electricity and gas from £1,254 to £1,179.

It means households are saving £75 a year on their energy bills, after the price cut came into force from October 1.

Confirming the rules in October, Philippa Pickford, director of retail at Ofgem, said: Customers who are struggling to pay their bills should contact their supplier as soon as possible. 

“The extra protections we have announced today will help ensure they get some breathing space this winter.”

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of charity Citizens Advice, added: “We’ve been pressing for the measures agreed between government and energy suppliers to help people through the coronavirus pandemic to be extended and widened.

“We’re very pleased to see this announcement from the regulator.”

Here’s how to save money on energy if your bills have soared during lockdown due to working or increased time at home.

Plus, find out your rights if it is too cold to work from home.

We’ve also rounded up everything you need to know about new online HMRC tool that could help you claim back up to £125 if you work from home.

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