MORE than four million prepayment meter customers are being given extra help to prevent the coronavirus cutting off their energy supply.
From today, customers with prepayment meters who aren’t able to leave their home to top up will be able to ask their supplier to keep them connected, the government has announced.
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It could include sending someone else to top up their card, having a pre-loaded gas or electricity card sent to them in the post, or having funds added to their credit.
Customers who can’t afford to pay their bills will also get support from their energy supplier, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.
With a prepayment meter, you use a top-up card or key to load more money onto your meter and it’s then taken from that balance every time you use energy.
Any energy customer in financial difficulty will also get additional help on debt repayments, while bill payments could be reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.
Plus, disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended to ensure all Brits can stay in a warm home during the crisis.
If you’re unable to top up your prepayment meter, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Regulator Ofgem recommends leaving your meter box unlocked if you need someone else to top up the meter.
Smart meter customers should be able to top up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
Alok Sharma, business and energy secretary, said: “While friends and family will play a role in helping people impacted by the coronavirus, we recognise there will be many customers who will need additional support and reassurance, particularly those who are financially impacted or in vulnerable circumstances.
“Today those most in need can rest assured that a secure supply of energy will continue to flow into their homes during this difficult time.”
Chief executive of Citizens Advice, Dame Gillian Guy, added: “Energy suppliers need to play their part by communicating clearly and supporting their customers as much as possible.
“Keeping people on supply, making sure they have warm homes and don’t face additional financial or other stresses about their energy supply will be essential.”
And Natalie Hitchins, head of homes products and services at Which?, said: “Hardup energy customers will breathe a sigh of relief that these new emergency measures will protect them from steep bills and losing their energy supply during these uncertain times.
“If you are worried about your ability to pay your energy bill because of the impact of coronavirus on your circumstances, it’s important to talk to your supplier as soon as possible to discuss your situation and find out what kind of support they can offer you.”
We’ve explained how to get help paying bills if you’re struggling during the coronavirus outbreak.
Plus, here’s what to do if you can’t pay your rent this month.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also announced that people struggling with their finances will be able to take a break of up to three months from paying their mortgages.