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Tackling your debts

What to do if your gas or electricity provider is threatening to cut you off

Posted 16 April 2013

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Understand your next steps

Speak to your energy supplier if they're threatening to cut you off. Debt Advisory Centre could speak to them for you about energy arrears and other debts too.

If you're being threatened with being cut off, it can be a scary and isolating time, and you might feel like there's no one who can help.

Don't worry. We are here to tell you how you could prevent being cut off, and how you could deal with money problems too.

Speak to your energy provider

Energy suppliers have specialist teams who are there to help people who are in financial difficulty, but they cannot help you if you don't tell them what's happening.

Act quickly

A gas or electricity supplier could cut off your supply if you don't pay within 28 days of your bill, but they'll have to send you a disconnection notice first.

They won't cut you off if you can pay something towards your arrears.

Talk to your supplier

Energy suppliers will want you to pay your bills plus something towards your arrears. If you think you cannot afford to pay anything, remember that energy bills are priority debts. That means you should prioritise repaying them over credit cards, overdrafts and loans.

So, if you're struggling with other debts on top of your gas or energy arrears, speak to a debt adviser about ways to lower your repayments.

 

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Work out what you can afford

Look at your budget and tell your energy supplier how much you can realistically afford to repay them.

The gas or electricity board should offer you repayment options that suit your budget, but they will want you to repay your arrears as quickly as you possibly can.

The most important thing is to pay for what you're using at the moment, so keep doing that if you can.

Are you vulnerable?

Explaining your circumstances to your supplier will make them more likely to help you. If you are in receipt of certain benefits, have health problems, have a disability or you're having serious financial problems, let your energy provider know.

Are you entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment?

If you were born on or before 5 July 1951, you should apply for the Winter Fuel Payment. You could be entitled to between £100 and £300 tax-free towards your energy bill.

Prepayment meter

Your energy supplier could fit a prepayment meter instead of disconnecting you. This turns you into a 'pay-as-you-go' energy customer. An advantage is that arrears can be added to the metre, and you can chip away at your arrears as you go. A disadvantage is that prepayment metres are more expensive to run than paying by Direct Debit, but it could prevent you from being disconnected.

Deal with other debts too

If you can speak to a debt adviser they will go through your budget with you and help you work out what you can afford to pay towards your energy arrears and your other debts too. Debt Advisory Centre can do that for you, and we could negotiate with your gas or electricity supplier, and other lenders, on your behalf if you ask us to.

Make your home more energy efficient to lower bills

The Energy Saving Advice Service can offer free and impartial advice on how to make your home more energy efficient - which can lower your bills - and can signpost you to a scheme to help you pay your bills, based on your eligibility. You can contact them on 0300 123 1234.

by Kyri Levendi

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.