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Gas and electricity arrears

This fact sheet covers England & WalesWe also have a version for Scotland if you need it.

Use this fact sheet to:

  • help you to deal with energy debt;
  • understand how you may lower ongoing energy bills; and
  • help you to complain if you have a problem with your supplier.

The sample letters mentioned in this fact sheet can be filled in on our website.

Commercial energy debt

This fact sheet deals with domestic energy debts. If you have issues with your commercial energy debts, please use our Commercial energy debt fact sheet to help you deal with them.

Check your bill

If you have received a high bill, there are some key things you can do to check that the bill has been worked out correctly.

Check if the bill is based on actual meter readings

Your bill should clearly state if it has been calculated using actual meter readings or estimated meter readings.

A bill based on an estimated reading may be wrong if the estimate is not accurate. If you are able to read your gas and electricity meters yourself, take your own meter reading. You can then compare the reading to your supplier’s estimate.

Contact your supplier to provide your meter reading if the supplier’s estimate is not right. Your supplier’s contact details will be on your bill. Providing an actual reading will make your bill more accurate. Bear in mind that if your reading is higher than your supplier’s estimate, you are likely to end up with a bigger bill by updating your reading in this way.

It is good practice to keep your energy bills as accurate as possible by regularly taking meter readings and sending them to your supplier.

For information on how to read your meter, visit the Citizens Advice webpage How to read your gas or electricity meter.

If you are not able to physically take a meter reading, your supplier may be able to offer you extra help. See the Priority Services Register information in the later section Contact your supplier.

Smart meters and estimated bills

Smart meters automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier. Due to changes in the systems used to send the meter readings, some older smart meters may temporarily stop sending meter readings. If your smart meter is affected, you should send regular meter readings to your supplier during the period that your meter is not sending the readings.

Check if you are responsible for the bill

Check the period that you have been billed for and whether you should be held responsible for the whole bill.

You will usually be responsible if:

  • you have agreed a contract with a supplier; or
  • nobody has agreed a contract with a supplier but you have been supplied with gas or electricity.

You might not be liable for some of the bill if it includes a period where somebody else had a contract with the supplier. Some examples of when this may have happened are:

  • if a bill includes a period before you moved in;
  • you moved in with somebody that already had a contract with the supplier; or
  • you lived with somebody that had a contract with the supplier but they have now moved out.

Tell your supplier if you do not believe that you should be held responsible for the whole bill and request that they correct it. If your supplier does not agree to do this, you should make a complaint. See the later section Complaining about your energy supplier.

Check how long your supplier has billed you for

If your supplier has not sent you a bill in a long time, they have to follow rules on what period they can charge you for. These are known as ‘back billing rules’. Usually, your supplier should not charge you for energy used more than 12 months ago if:

  • they have not previously sent you an accurate bill for the same period;
  • they have not informed you about the charges in a statement of account; or
  • your direct debit was set too low to cover the charges.

Let your supplier know if the back billing rules mean they should not have charged you for more than 12 months’ usage. You can make a complaint about your supplier if they refuse to amend your bill. For more information, visit the Ofgem webpage What to do if you get a back bill.

Check your direct debit

Gas and electricity suppliers usually set a direct debit at a rate to cover your estimated energy use for a whole year. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your supplier for an explanation of how your payment has been worked out. Your supplier may be able to reduce the payment if:

  • it is currently based on an estimate which is higher than accurate meter readings suggest you really use in a year; or
  • it includes an amount to repay a debt to your supplier.

If you are repaying a debt, you can ask for the debt repayment to be lowered if the current rate is not affordable for you. Your supplier should take your ability to pay into account when setting debt repayment rates. See the later section Make an arrangement to pay your debt.

If your supplier refuses to lower your direct debit when you think that they should, you can make a complaint. For more information, see the later section Complaining about your energy supplier.

If you pay your landlord for energy

Your landlord may pay for the gas or electricity in your home and resell the energy directly to you. Your landlord should not charge you more than they pay for gas and electricity themselves. For more information, see the Ofgem publication The resale of gas and electricity: guidance on maximum resale price.

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you think your landlord may have overcharged you for energy. See the Useful contacts section at the end of this fact sheet for details.

Contact your supplier

If you are struggling to pay your energy bill or you have already fallen behind with payments, get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible. Your supplier has a range of options to help you. The support they may be able to offer you will depend on your situation. Examples of help include:

  • a short-term payment break or a reduction in your payments;
  • advice on accessing financial support that may be available, like benefits you may be entitled to or grants that could pay towards energy debt; and
  • advice on energy efficiency and the support that may be available to meet the cost of energy efficiency measures.

Your supplier must also provide you with a free of charge method of contacting them when they become aware that you are having or will have difficulty in paying your bill.

Vulnerability

People can be vulnerable for a wide range of reasons. Vulnerability can be linked to age, physical health, mental health, or going through a difficult time in life. A vulnerability could be temporary or ongoing. You should let your supplier know if there is anything about your circumstances that makes you vulnerable as they may offer you more support if they know this.

You should also check if your supplier has signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment. Energy UK is a trade association. Suppliers signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment have said they will provide extra support to vulnerable customers. This includes:

  • making sure staff have an understanding of vulnerability and can identify that you might be in vulnerable circumstances;
  • giving you an alternative way of contacting them in addition to phone contact; and
  • making sure you have paper versions of your bill if this is what you need.

Priority Services Register

Energy suppliers each have a Priority Services Register to identify customers who are vulnerable and may need extra help. Examples of when you may be considered vulnerable include if you are:

  • a pensioner;
  • disabled or have a long-term medical condition;
  • experiencing a mental health problem; or
  • pregnant or have young children.

You may be able to register for other reasons that are not listed above. For example, if you have recently been bereaved.

You can apply to be on the register by contacting your supplier. If your name is put on the register, you may get:

  • help to read your meter or have it moved;
  • letters and bills in a suitable format such as in large print or braille;
  • password protection agreed with your supplier, so you know that the person calling is from your energy supplier;
  • advance warning when supplies are going to be stopped for a period; and
  • priority reconnection if your energy supply is disrupted.

If you own your own home and are receiving benefits, you might also be offered a free, yearly gas safety check of your appliances. For more information, see the Ofgem webpage Join your supplier’s Priority Services Register.

Make an arrangement to pay your debt

If you do not pay your gas or electricity arrears, your supplier can disconnect your supply. So, you should treat the arrears as a priority debt. This means you should pay gas and electricity arrears before paying non-priority debts such as credit cards or unsecured loans.

Contact your supplier and ask for a payment arrangement based on what you can afford. You can use our Ask your domestic energy supplier to accept affordable payments sample letter.

Breathing space

If you need time to get debt advice and find a debt solution, you may want to consider applying for breathing space.

Breathing space will stop most types of enforcement and also stop most creditors applying interest and charges for 60 days.

To find out more, see our Breathing space fact sheet.

Ability to pay

Your supplier has to look at your ability to repay your energy debt. The supplier must:

  • take your individual circumstances into account;
  • make full use of available information, including your budget sheet;
  • make it easy for you to talk to them about concerns you have around your ability to pay; and
  • contact you in a timely manner to discuss whether a different repayment plan is appropriate if you miss a payment on an agreed repayment.

When your supplier knows that you are having difficulty repaying your energy bills, they must give you the option to pay the arrears:

  • by regular instalments based on an agreed plan;
  • through deduction from your benefits if you are on particular benefits; or
  • through a prepayment meter, if one is appropriate for you.

Your supplier must also offer to provide energy efficiency information to help you reduce your energy charges.

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need help negotiating an arrangement with your supplier (see the Useful contacts section for details), or contact us for advice.

How to work out an affordable offer

It is very important to budget for ongoing gas and electricity bills. Ask your energy supplier to tell you what your weekly or monthly energy charges are. Alternatively, to work this out add up your bills to find out the total amount for the previous year.

  • To work out weekly charges, divide the total by 52.
  • To work out monthly charges, divide the total by 12.

Put the amount into Your budget as an essential expense. Then add in your other essential expenses. This will show you what surplus you can afford to offer to your supplier and to any other priority creditors. If you need help to work out what offer to make to your supplier, contact us for advice.

Your supplier should offer you different payment options and budgeting schemes to suit you. You can ask to pay your bills every week, every two weeks or every month. Keep paying for the energy you are using and an amount off your debt, even while you are trying to make an arrangement.

If your circumstances change

If a change in circumstances means you cannot afford the payments that you had agreed with your supplier, ask them to review the payment arrangement. Ask your supplier to either:

  • lower the payment arrangement to an amount you can afford; or
  • give you a break from paying towards your energy debt if you cannot afford to pay anything at the moment.

You can use the Re-negotiate with your domestic energy supplier if your current repayment arrangement is unaffordable sample letter. It is a good idea to start making the reduced payment that you offer.

Paying your debt directly from your benefit

You may be able to use the Fuel Direct scheme to pay towards your energy arrears directly from your benefit if you receive one of the following benefits.

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

Under the scheme, a set amount is taken to pay towards your debt and an amount may also be taken to pay for your ongoing energy costs. From 1 April 2022 onwards, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will only agree to new or increased deductions for ongoing energy costs if you give your consent.

If you want to pay by Fuel Direct, contact:

Ask how much will be deducted from your benefit to pay towards your debt. If the deduction will be higher than Your budget shows that you can afford, you are likely to be better off negotiating a payment arrangement directly with your supplier. Contact us for advice if you are not sure whether Fuel Direct would suit you.

Prepayment meters

Your supplier may suggest that you have a prepayment meter. On this kind of meter, you pay in advance for the fuel that you are going to use. Prepayment meters can also be set to collect debt from the money that you put in.

You must be asked if you want a prepayment meter before your supplier takes action to disconnect your supply. If your supplier fits a meter rather than disconnecting your supply, they may charge you up to £150. If a health condition or vulnerability prevented you from dealing with your energy debt, your supplier should not charge you for fitting a prepayment meter as a way of sorting out your debt.

Tell your supplier if you think there is any reason that it would not be safe for you to use a prepayment meter. Your supplier must either make it safe for you to use or offer you a different payment method.

Smart meters in prepayment mode

Smart meters measure your energy use and can send this information to your supplier electronically. Smart meters can be set up as prepayment meters and have a wide range of options for topping them up, including by phone, by internet or with a special app. This can mean that they are easier to use than traditional prepayment meters.

Prepayment meter points

  • Prepayment meters allow you to carefully control the amount you spend on energy.
  • Prepayment meters can help you to pay for your energy as you go and avoid future energy debt once you have paid your debt off.
  • If you can’t afford to top up the meter, you may end up without any energy until you can afford to top it up again. See the later section, Self-disconnection and self-rationing.
  • You cannot spread the cost of your energy over the year, as you can with a credit payment plan. When you need the most energy, you might find it difficult to afford what you need.
  • You will still have a daily standing charge for being connected, even on days when you do not use any gas or electricity. You will need to ensure there is enough money on your meter to pay this daily charge, otherwise your next top up will go towards the unpaid standing charges before gas or electricity that you can use.
  • You might leave a fire switched on if the money runs out. This could be a serious danger if you forget that you have left the appliance on and put more money in to restore your supply without first turning it off.
  • There may be hidden costs if you do not have a smart meter and you cannot afford to pay for much energy at one time. The cost of travelling to top up your meter can add to the cost of your energy. Frequently topping up your meter may also be difficult if you live in a rural area, have dependants or have a disability.

Supplier forcing you onto prepayment meter

If you are in debt to your supplier, they may be able to force you onto a prepayment meter. They may do this by either:

  • installing a prepayment meter after obtaining a court warrant; or
  • switching your smart meter from credit mode to prepayment mode without your consent.

Suppliers should not force you onto a prepayment meter if they have not offered you another way to pay your debt.

Before forcing you onto a prepayment meter, your supplier must take steps to check that a prepayment meter would be safe and practical in your circumstances. This includes trying to contact you and trying to visit you to understand your circumstances.

Examples of when a supplier may consider that a prepayment would not be safe for you include:

  • if nobody in your household would be able to operate or top up the prepayment meter;
  • if being on a prepayment meter could harm the health of somebody in your household;
  • if you and all other members of your household are aged 75 or over; and
  • if there any children aged under 2 in your household.

There may be other reasons that a prepayment meter might not be safe for you, such as having young children in the household or if somebody in your household is pregnant.

Let your supplier know if there is any reason that you have to believe that a prepayment meter would not be safe or practical for you. You can also contact us to discuss what points you may be able to raise to try to stop your supplier forcing you onto a prepayment meter.

Self-disconnection and self-rationing

If you have a prepayment meter, you could become self-disconnected. This is where you are left without gas or electricity until you can afford to top up your prepayment meter. There are various reasons this could happen, for example forgetting to top up the meter or not realising that the meter was low on credit. If you are in this situation, suppliers are required to provide you with either:

  • an Emergency Credit to top up your meter; or
  • a Friendly-hours Credit at times top up points may be closed (this is usually overnight, at weekends and on public holidays).

These types of credit may be built into your prepayment meter already. If you need this support but are unsure how to access it, contact your supplier.

Even if you can keep your prepayment meter topped up, you may find you can only do this by self-rationing. This is where you limit your energy use to save money, or where you spend less on other goods or services so that you can have an energy supply.

If you are vulnerable, your supplier may be able to provide you with an ‘Additional Support Credit’ to ensure you have a supply of energy. There are a wide range of reasons you could be in a vulnerable situation, for example, living with a physical or mental health issue, experiencing a bereavement, or having a drop in your income. Your supplier may offer you Additional Support Credit if they know you:

  • have self-disconnected;
  • are at risk of self-disconnecting;
  • have self-rationed; or
  • are self-rationing.

Call your supplier if you need this support. Explain your situation and ask them to provide you with an Additional Support Credit. If you are not sure if you are in a vulnerable situation, speak to your supplier or contact us for advice.

Repaying a credit from your supplier

Usually, credit has to be repaid when you next top up your supply. But, if this will not be possible, suppliers must consider your ability to pay and agree an affordable repayment plan with you. See the earlier section Make an arrangement to pay your debt.

Disconnection

You should be able to prevent disconnection if you contact your supplier and arrange to repay your debt at an affordable rate, either by instalments, Fuel Direct or through a prepayment meter. You must be asked if you want a prepayment meter before your supply is disconnected, if it is safe to install one. See the earlier sections Make an arrangement to pay your debt and Prepayment meters.

Gas and electricity companies cannot cut off your supply unless they have first offered you a range of payment methods to help you pay. They must only disconnect your supply as a last resort.

Contact your local council and the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if your supplier is threatening to disconnect your supply. Your local council may be able to help you to avoid disconnection or to restore your energy supply through their local welfare assistance scheme.

If you have children, consider contacting your local social services department for help with your energy payments. Tell your supplier that you have contacted social services as they will usually delay cutting you off if social services are looking into your case. This could give you time to make an arrangement to pay. The Children Act 1989 gives social services the power to make payments in certain circumstances to families with children in need.

It is important that you do reach an agreement before disconnection occurs, because it will be much cheaper to repay your existing debt than to pay for reconnection as well.

Landlord not paid the bill

Your landlord may pay the gas or electricity for your home. Contact your local council or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if your supplier is threatening to cut your supply off because the landlord has not paid the bill. Your local council may have the power to help you avoid disconnection or to restore your energy supply through their local welfare assistance scheme.

Disputed debt

If you are genuinely in dispute about your electricity or gas bill, your supplier should not disconnect your supply. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help in disputing your bill or if your supplier threatens to disconnect your energy supply. See the Useful contacts section for details.

Old debt and new address

You cannot be disconnected for a gas or electricity bill from an old address if you have moved home. However, you may find it hard to get an energy supply in your new home from the same supplier unless you make an arrangement to pay your debt with them. You may need to use a different supplier for your new address.

Preventing disconnection – winter months

Certain activities concerning gas and electricity may only be carried out with a licence, regulated by Ofgem. Licences contain conditions that licence holders must abide by. The licence conditions provide protection for particular groups of customers during the period 1 October to 31 March.

Standard Licence Condition 27 states that your suppler must not disconnect you during the winter months if you are a domestic customer and you:

  • have reached State Pension age and live alone; or
  • have reached State Pension age and live only with other people who have reached State Pension age or are under 18 years old.

To check your State Pension age, visit the GOV.UK page Check your State Pension age.

Standard Licence Condition 27 also states that your supplier must take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting you during the period 1 October to 31 March if your household includes somebody that:

  • has reached state pension age;
  • is disabled; or
  • is chronically sick.

If your supplier is threatening disconnection of your supply and you are in one of these groups, let your energy provider know straight away. You can also get help from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. See the Useful contacts section for details.

Preventing disconnection – Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment

The Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment gives vulnerable customers further protection from disconnection. If your supplier has signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment, they will not knowingly disconnect you if:

  • you are vulnerable;
  • your household has children under the age of 6 (or under the age of 16 during 1 October to 31 March); or
  • you cannot safeguard your personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household due to age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity.

Check to see if your supplier has signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment, as not all suppliers have. If you can benefit from the protections offered by the Commitment, tell your supplier that you are vulnerable and need an affordable way of paying for your energy supply. Also ask to be put on the supplier’s Priority Services Register, if you have not already done this.

Entry into your home

If you don’t come to an agreement to pay your debt, your supplier can apply for a warrant from the magistrates’ court, making it legal for them to enter your home to disconnect your energy supply. They will usually tell you when the magistrates' court hearing will take place. You should contact a local advice agency to see if you can get support at the hearing if you want to stop the warrant.

Even at this late stage, you can contact your supplier to make an affordable offer of repayment before you or your representative goes to court. But, if you do go to court, take copies of your budget to give to the court and your supplier to support your offer. Also take any evidence you wish to present. This could include points about:

  • a dispute about the amount charged;
  • how the supplier has behaved;
  • what actions you have taken;
  • what offers of payment you have made and when;
  • the effect a disconnection would have on your household, especially on children, people who are ill or who are elderly;
  • disabled members of your household; and
  • your budget.

If you don’t have a representative, you can take along a friend to court to support you. If you want them to be able to speak for you, explain to the magistrate why you need this and ask that your friend is allowed to address the court directly on your behalf. It is up to the magistrate whether they will allow your friend to speak directly to the court, or not. If the magistrate does not allow your friend to speak directly to them, they will usually allow your friend to speak quietly to you, take notes for you and give you advice.

If the court grants the warrant, your supplier must give you seven days’ notice (gas) or seven working days’ notice (electricity) before they can use the warrant to enter and disconnect your supply. Your supplier is more likely to fit a prepayment meter than to disconnect your supply. If you are getting benefits, consider whether Fuel Direct could be a better option for you than a prepayment meter. See the earlier section Make an arrangement to pay your debt.

Theft

If your supplier thinks that fuel has been stolen, they may try to prosecute you for the theft. If they do, try to find out these key details.

  • What do they say happened?
  • What evidence do they have?
  • When do they think that this occurred?

Theft of energy supply or tampering with a meter can result in civil proceedings for the recovery of the debt, a £1,000 fine or imprisonment.

Theft can also lead to disconnection of your supply at short notice, or no notice in some cases. However, the supplier has to take account whether anyone in the household is a pensioner, disabled or has a long-term medical condition.

Disconnection must not take place during the winter months and can only be used as a last resort for non-payment of debt which arose from a theft.

Defending yourself against an accusation of theft can seem daunting. You may need to seek the advice of a solicitor and you should also contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. See the Useful contacts section for details or contact us for advice.

Getting reconnected

To get reconnected after disconnection for unpaid debt, you will have to pay the original energy debt, a reconnection fee and any administrative costs you have been charged, as long as they are reasonable. You may also have to pay a security deposit before your supplier will agree to supply you again if you don’t want a prepayment meter. You cannot be asked to pay a security deposit if you agree to have a prepayment meter.

Contact your local council to ask if they can help pay for reconnection charges through their welfare assistance scheme. If you have children, consider asking your local Social Services department for help.

If you don’t owe any money to your supplier when they reconnect you, you can ask your supplier to fit you a credit meter so that you don’t have to top it up. Even if you do owe your supplier money, you may be able to argue that it is not safe or reasonably practical for you to have a prepayment meter if you:

  • have medical equipment that needs electricity;
  • are disabled;
  • have a mental health condition; or
  • have a long-term illness.

Once you have paid the outstanding amount, or you have agreed a repayment plan with the supplier, reconnection should occur within 24 hours. If the payment is made, or agreement is reached, outside the hours of the working day, the reconnection period begins from the start of the next working day.

If the supplier fails to reconnect within the appropriate time, they will usually have to pay you a standard payment of £30 within 10 working days.

If you feel that the level of reconnection charges are unfair, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help in challenging your supplier. See the Useful contacts section for details.

Complaining about your energy supplier

If you are not happy about how your supplier has treated you, start by making a complaint to them directly, to see if they can put matters right. Ask for their code of practice and for their complaints procedure or read these on their website. This gives you the information you need to make an effective complaint in the right way.

The code of practice may give you the words to describe exactly how the supplier has not met your expectations and their own standards. The complaints procedure will tell you the steps you need to take to register your complaint with your supplier.

The Energy Ombudsman

If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint after eight weeks, or if you have received a ‘deadlock’ letter giving your supplier’s final response to your complaint and you are not happy, you can escalate your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. If the Energy Ombudsman decides in your favour, they can require your supplier to:

  • make an apology;
  • pay financial compensation;
  • take an action to remedy the matter; or
  • any combination of these.

The service is free, but you must make your complaint within a time limit. The service can accept a complaint within 12 months of a deadlock letter. If you have not received a deadlock letter, they may be able to investigate a complaint older than 12 months.

See the Useful contacts section for contact details.

Resolver

You can also use the free service, Resolver, to help you write to your supplier and to pass your complaint on to the Energy Ombudsman. Resolver’s website tools can help you to:

  • prepare your emails;
  • keep a copy of communications;
  • make a case file where you can save and upload emails and documents; and
  • remember when to escalate your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.

Other steps you can take

If you are not happy with what the Energy Ombudsman has decided, you may be able to take court action, depending on what’s gone wrong. This could involve significantly more costs, so you should discuss your plan for action with the Citizens Advice consumer helpline first. See the Useful contacts section for details.

Help with your energy bills

Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount Scheme requires certain suppliers to take £150 off the winter electricity bills of customers that have a low income and are vulnerable to cold-related illness.

You may be eligible to get the discount automatically if:

  • you or your partner receive the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit; or
  • you or your partner receive another qualifying benefit or Tax Credits, and you are identified by the government as living in a property with high heating costs.

In some cases, you will be required to provide further information to help decide whether you are eligible for the discount, so it is important that you check your post regularly. Letters about eligibility or possible eligibility to a discount are usually sent out by the middle of January every year.

See GOV.UK for full eligibility criteria and further information on the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

Winter Fuel Payment

If you have reached the age at which you can apply for Pension Credit before the fourth Monday in September, you may be entitled to a lump sum payment from £100 up to £300 each year called the Winter Fuel Payment.

Contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160 or check the GOV.UK page on the Winter Fuel Payment for more information.

Cold Weather Payment

You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you are getting certain benefits and the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.

If you are eligible, you get a payment of £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) automatically pays it into the same account as the one they use to pay your benefit, within 14 days of the end of each cold weather period. You may be eligible if you are getting one of the following.

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for Mortgage Interest

See the GOV.UK page on Cold Weather Payment for more information.

Household Support Fund (England)

If you live in England, you may be able to receive a small grant to support with energy bills. Contact your local council to check if you may be eligible.

Trust funds and charities

Some energy companies have set up funds that may be able to help you pay your energy bills if you are in financial difficulties. Ask your supplier if they have a fund or contact us for advice.

There may also be charities that can help you with your energy bills. Turn2us can try to find charities that may be able to help you. You can do a search on the Turn2us website for a grant or call Turn2us on 0808 802 2000. See the Useful contacts section for details.

Energy saving help

You may be able to get a grant or a loan to help with insulation, draught proofing, central heating and other energy-saving measures. Some energy companies offer energy-saving schemes and discounts. Suppliers may offer other kinds of help.

  • The page Get help paying for energy efficiency home improvements on the Citizens Advice website has advice about grants and funding that may be available for energy-saving home improvements.
  • In Wales, you can also apply for free energy grants and help through the Nest scheme. Contact Nest on 0808 808 2244. See the Useful contacts section for details.

If you have a combi-boiler, see Nesta’s Money Saving Boiler Challenge for information on how you may be able to save money on your gas bills. The website provides a step-by-step guide on identifying whether changing the ‘flow temperature’ setting on your boiler may save you some money and gives instructions on how to change the setting.

For information on other steps that you may be able to take to save on your energy costs, see GOV.UK and Ofgem’s webpage Actions for saving energy.

If you are a homeowner, you can also use an online service on GOV.UK to get recommendations for home improvements that could make your property cheaper to heat and keep warm. If you live in England and cannot access the tool online, you can call the Home Retrofit Advice and Information Line on 0800 098 7950 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 12pm).

Free energy-efficiency consultation

The Groundwork charity runs a Green Doctor service to help people stay warm, stay well, and save money on household bills. If there is a Green Doctor project near you, you may qualify for a free in-home consultation from an energy-efficiency expert. Examples of free help that you may be able to get through a consultation include:

  • fixing causes of heat loss in your home;
  • tackling problems with damp or mould;
  • tips on saving energy while keeping your home safe and comfortable;
  • installation of small energy efficiency measures; and
  • help with accessing other support such as government grants.

Visit the Green Doctor website to check if there is a project local to you. The website also has videos and guides with tips on saving energy and keeping warm.

Smart meters

Smart meters are a type of gas and electricity meter that can send automatic meter readings to your supplier. Bills can be more accurate if you have a smart meter because automatic meter readings mean that your supplier does not have to estimate how much energy you have used.

Smart meters also come with an in-home display, which is a device that shows you how much energy you are using and how much it is costing you in pounds and pence. The information from an in-home display may also help you to identify how you can reduce your energy usage to save money.

Over the next few years, suppliers will have to offer a free smart meter to all of their customers. If you do not have a smart meter already, you can contact your supplier to ask if they will install one for you now.

The Smart Energy GB website has more information about smart meters and their benefits.

Smart meters if you rent your home

You can choose to have a smart meter if you are named on the bill. However, you should check your tenancy agreement to see if there are any rules about the type of meter that can be installed in the property. You may need your landlord’s permission before having a smart meter installed.

Government support schemes have ended

The government ran several schemes to help support households with the rising costs of energy. The support included limits on what you could be charged per unit of gas or electricity and a £400 discount on the energy bills of every household with an electricity connection.

As the support from government support schemes has ended, you may find that your bills have increased even though your usage has stayed the same.

If you pay energy costs to a landlord, they had to consider passing the support on to you. Your landlord had to notify you of their decision on how much they would pass on, even if they decided it was not appropriate to pass on any support. Contact us for advice if you feel your landlord has not passed on the right amount of benefit from a government support scheme. You can also find more information on landlords’ obligations on GOV.UK.

Getting the best energy deal

Switching your tariff or supplier

As the cost of energy is high at the moment, it may be difficult to lower your bills by changing your tariff or supplier. Visit the Citizens Advice webpage Switch energy supplier or tariff for information on:

  • the points to consider before switching; and
  • how to switch.

As well as looking at the price of a new deal, it is also worth checking how well energy suppliers deal with customer service. You can do this on the Citizens Advice page Compare energy suppliers' customer service.

Switching if you have energy debt

If you have a credit meter (one you don’t have to top up) and have owed money to your current supplier for 28 days or more, you may not be able to move to a new supplier until you have paid the debt.

If you have a prepayment meter and owe £500 or less to your current supplier, you should be allowed to switch. If you think that you are being treated unfairly and need help to sort it out, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline (see the Useful contacts section for details) or contact us for advice.

Tenants' rights

If you are responsible for paying your supplier’s bill rather than your landlord, you have rights to choose your supplier and what method you use to pay your bill. See the Citizens Advice page Switching energy supplier or tariff if you’re renting for more information.

Fuel Direct and switching

If you are paying for your energy by Fuel Direct deductions from your benefits, you should tell the DWP the details as soon as you know that you are changing your energy supplier.

Credit on old energy accounts

If you have moved to a different supplier, you may have an old account with an amount of credit still in it. Contact your old supplier to get this credit back. See the Uswitch website for more information.

Credit reference agencies

Your supplier may send information about your account history and court action to credit reference agencies. This may affect your ability to get credit in the future. See our Credit reference agencies fact sheet for more information.

Useful contacts

Citizens Advice consumer helpline A consumer helpline if you need more help with an energy problem Phone: 0808 223 1133 www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Nest Wales A scheme offering free home energy efficiency improvements to eligible customers Phone: 0808 808 2244 www.nest.gov.wales

Scope A charity with experts providing support for disabled households facing issues around energy and water Phone: 0808 801 0828 www.scope.org.uk/disability-energy-support

The Energy Ombudsman An independent body which handles disputes between consumers and energy suppliers Phone: 0330 440 1614 www.energyombudsman.org

Turn2us A national charity that provides benefits checks and has a database of charitable grants. Phone: 0808 802 2000 www.turn2us.org.uk

Other fact sheets that may help you

Breathing space fact sheet

Commercial energy debt fact sheet

Credit reference agencies fact sheet