The ‘very first thing’ you need to do if you can’t pay your energy bills this winter

Energy bills rise is a 'world crisis' says Knight

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As Britain deals with the biggest cost of living crisis in 60 years, many families and individuals face the reality of not being able to afford to pay their energy bills, leaving them understandably worried about the potential consequences. Google trends data shows a 2400 percent increase in the term “can’t pay my bills” in the last seven days. The Don’t Pay UK campaign, which is encouraging Britons to cancel their energy direct debits if the price cap rise goes ahead, has garnered a significant amount of support with over 100,000 people signing up.

However, energy expert Myles Robinson from Boiler Central has urged Britons to not do this as it could cause more harm than good in the long run.

Mr Robinson reiterated that the “absolute very first thing” that people need to do is contact their supplier as soon as they can.

He said: “They should discuss with you ways to pay what you owe them and come to an agreement.

“When coming to an agreement, your supplier should consider what you can afford to pay based on your income, outgoings, and any other debts you have. They will also consider how much energy you are likely to use in the future by looking at your past usage.”

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Mr Robinson explained that once all of these factors have been taken into account, the customer will then pay fixed instalments over a specified period of time which should be what they can actually afford.

To ensure an energy bill is accurate, Mr Robinson recommends Britons send their supplier gas and electricity meter readings every month.

Direct debits are usually based on estimated energy use for the year and a person’s supplier may be able to reduce payments if the estimate is higher than the amount that is being used.

According to Ofgem’s rules, energy providers “must” and “are required” to offer payment plans that the customer can actually afford.

Customers can also ask for “emergency credit” if they use a prepayment meter and can’t top up.

However, customers cannot access this support from the energy company if they do not inform their supplier of their situation.

If customers stop paying their bills, or they do not stick to the repayment plan they agreed to, then their energy supplier may try to have a prepayment meter installed.

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Mr Robinson added: “Failure to reach an agreement with your supplier may also result in them applying for a court warrant so they can visit your home and disconnect your energy supply but this is the last resort and your supplier must first offer you the chance to pay off any debt through a repayment plan.”

The same approach will also be taken to those who have built up debt with the energy provider.

People who are receiving certain benefits can also ask to have their bills paid directly from the benefits they receive. To do this they need to contact the Jobcentre.

If a person is on certain benefits and they go into debt with their energy supplier they may also be able to pay this debt through their benefits using the Fuel Direct Scheme.

To be eligible for the Fuel Direct Scheme, people need to be claiming Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit, and Pension Credit.

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