Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Energy Bills
The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted every part of our lives, is a national emergency, and financially a lot of us might not be able to keep up with increasing energy bills due to the government’s orders to stay at home.
In light of the government’s stay at home orders & due to many businesses having to make hard employment decisions, the government and energy suppliers have launched an emergency package to help those unable to make payments on their energy bills. Measures include:
- Ensuring prepayment and pay-as-you go customers remain supplied with energy through these challenging times
- Supporting customers in financial distress, through an industry agreement signed by all UK domestic suppliers
What is the government’s position?
“The government has committed to do whatever it takes to get our nation through the impacts of this coronavirus pandemic. Today those most in need can rest assured that a secure supply of energy will continue to flow into their homes during this difficult time.”Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Alok Sharma
The agreement between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial domestic energy supply companies outlines a comprehensive worst case scenario for consumers in the UK. This document covers prioritising those who are vulnerable:
- Priority Service Register customers may need extra advice and support
- Prepayment meter customers, both smart and legacy will need specific support
- Customers with health conditions or who are or are vulnerable to a cold home, may need to maintain a constant supply of energy
Financially impacted due to coronavirus?
The government will look to consider these as options for consumers in financial hardship:
- Considering reassessing, reducing or pausing debt repayment and bill payments for domestic customers in financial distress.
- Considering referring customers who are struggling to pay to third party debt advisers such as StepChange and Citizens Advice.
- Suspending credit meter disconnections
How will prepayment meter customers be supported?
- Extending discretionary/ friendly credit or sending out a pre-loaded top up card
- Enabling customers to nominate a trusted third party to be able to pick up discretionary credit sent to a shop on their behalf.
- Switching smart prepayment meters into credit mode or extending nondisconnection periods (consumers will be made aware any credit will need to be paid back)
- Promoting online smart prepayment top-up channels. Having particular regard to the regulatory requirements and the potential impact of COVID-19, when applying the ‘safe and reasonably practicable’ test when considering switching a customer from credit to prepay.
- Take reasonable steps to contact prepayment customers with advice on what to do in the event of self-isolation
If you are facing financial hardship, the advice is to contact your supplier to work out options with them directly, and keep in mind they will have support in place from the government. It’s important that you do not stop paying your energy supplier without contacting and working out a plan with them first.
It’s still possible for those to switch energy suppliers and to seek out ways to save money on your energy bills going forward. This ability isn’t impacted as the process to switch energy doesn’t involve any work inside or outside your household.