What to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills
Coronavirus - if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills
At the moment, your energy supplier won’t disconnect your gas or electricity if you miss a payment. If you’ve got a prepayment meter and you don’t top it up, your energy supply might still stop.
Tell your supplier if you can’t afford your bills because of coronavirus. You’ll find their contact details on your bill or on their website.
You might have to wait longer than normal to speak to someone on the phone. Try contacting them online through their website, their social media, or by email instead.
For more advice, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 0808 223 1133.
Or you can get help from Home Energy Scotland. Find guidance and contact details on the Home Energy Scotland website.
You might also be able to apply for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.
If you’re struggling to afford your gas and electricity bills, contact your supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them.
Your supplier has to help you come to a solution. You should try to negotiate a deal that works for both of you.
If you don’t try to negotiate with your supplier, they might threaten to disconnect your supply.
This page can help you if you pay for your energy after you use it - for example by monthly direct debit or quarterly bill. There are different things you should do if you can't afford to top up your prepayment meter.
Energy arrears are a 'priority debt'. This means you need to pay them before debts like credit cards. If you have more than one debt, work out which debts to pay first.
Agree a payment plan with your supplier
Tell your supplier that you want to pay off your debts in instalments as part of a payment plan.
You’ll pay fixed amounts over a set period of time, meaning you’ll pay what you can afford. The payment plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use.
Your supplier must take into account:
- how much you can afford to pay - give them details about your income and outgoings, debts and personal circumstances
- how much energy you’ll use in future - they’ll estimate this based on your past usage, but give them regular meter readings to make this more accurate
If you’re not sure how much you can afford to pay, use our budgeting tool to help you.
You owe £400 to your supplier for debts. Instead of paying this in one go, you speak to your supplier - you tell them the maximum you can afford to pay is £40 a week. You agree with them to pay £10 a week to cover the debt, and £30 a week to cover your current energy usage until the debt’s paid off.
If you can’t afford the payment plan
Speak to your supplier again if you think they’re charging you too much or you're struggling to afford the repayments. You can try to negotiate a better deal. If you don’t, your supplier might make you have a prepayment meter installed.
Pay off your debt through your benefits
You might be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount for your current use.
It can be more convenient than having a prepayment meter fitted (which your supplier might try to do if you can’t agree a payment plan) and you won’t risk running out of gas or electricity.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
Contact the Jobcentre and let them know you want to set up Fuel Direct. They’ll contact your supplier and tell them you want to pay off your debt under the Fuel Direct Scheme - your supplier must agree to it.
Your supplier will set up the repayments and let you know how much you’ll be paying.
If you don’t come to an agreement
If you’re not able to agree a payment plan with your supplier, or you don’t stick to a plan you previously agreed to, your supplier might try to force you to have a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
Extra financial help
You might be able to get a grant from a charitable trust to help pay off your debts. Charis Grants has more information on available grants and how to apply.
If you can't come to an agreement with your supplier about repaying your debt, or you're not happy with the option they've given you, contact your local Citizens Advice bureau or the Citizens Advice consumer service for advice.
Citizens Advice consumer service (Scotland)
Tel: 0808 223 1133 (Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm)
The Citizens Advice consumer service will provide energy and postal service advice to Scottish consumers. You can find out more about the service, including how to get in touch online, on Contact the consumer helpline.
If you're struggling with debt problems, check how to get help with debt.