Just looking to save money? Ask your supplier if they have a cheaper tariff you could move to. Or you could consider switching supplier, but can everyone switch?
- If you are a tenant and you are responsible for paying for gas or electricity then you have the right to choose your own supplier
- If you are a tenant and the landlord pays the energy supplier and includes the cost of energy within your rent, then the landlord chooses the supplier.
Already in debt to your current supplier?
- Energy companies can refuse to allow you to switch to another supplier if you have an outstanding debt, and the new supplier may not accept you if you owe money. What you can do will depend on how long you have owed the money and the type of meter you have.
- If you have owed money for less than 28 days you will still be able to change supplier. The money you owe will be transferred to your new supplier.
- If it is more than 28 days you may be stopped from switching, depending on the type of meter you have.
- If you are on a prepayment meter you can switch energy suppliers and transfer debts of up to £500 for gas and £500 for electricity, but you will have to carry on using the prepayment meter with your new supplier until the debt is paid off.(You may not be able to switch supplier if you are on a special meter or tariff that other suppliers can’t support.)
- If you are not on a prepayment meter but owe money to an energy supplier, they can stop you switching until the debt is paid off.
Have a poor payment record or are a new customer and cannot provide proof of identity? The energy company may require financial security before they supply you.
You may be asked to:
Join a regular payment plan, your energy use will be estimated and you will pay this amount by equal instalments throughout the year. This can be a useful budgeting tool. Some suppliers offer a discount to customers who pay by direct debit, standing order, a fixed payment budget scheme or a flexible payments scheme.
Agree to have a prepayment meter. This means you pay for the energy before you use it. This is normally done with a token, key or card that you can buy or top up. This can be a useful budgeting tool, but is usually the most expensive way to pay for electricity.
Name a guarantor. The supplier will check if the guarantor’s record of energy payments is satisfactory and the guarantor will be legally responsible for paying your energy bills if you don’t pay.
Put down a deposit. The supplier must only request a ‘reasonable amount’ as a deposit. The maximum would be the two highest quarters of energy used (estimated if necessary).
Extra help for those who are vulnerable or on a low income. You may be classed as vulnerable if you are a pensioner, disabled, chronically ill, unable to look after your own welfare or living with someone who is unable to look after their own welfare.
Energy suppliers run priority services registers. They may offer priority reconnection after a power cut, taking regular readings if you can’t do it yourself, providing controls and adaptors free of charge to make meters and appliances easier to use, providing alternative facilities for cooking and heating if your energy supply is interrupted. You need to register for this with your supplier/s.
More information about help with energy, including debt, from:
- Home Heat Helpline tel 0800 336699 or www.homeheathelpline.org.uk
- Energy Saving Trust tel 0300 123 1234 or www,adviceguide.org.uk
Campaign for a better deal for prepayment meter customers
Around 16% of energy customers use prepayment meters and their use is increasing. This autumn, Citizens Advice will be campaigning to secure a better deal for prepayment energy customers. The aims of the campaign are:
- better customer service and support with easier top-ups
- a fair choice of tariffs in line with other payment methods
- a smarter prepay offer that works for consumers
Tell us about your experiences with prepaymeters so that we can build up evidence for the campaign. Contact your local CAB or call Peter Jackson at Citizens Advice on 03000 231119