Some customers have told us that they are struggling to top up their utility pre-payment meters, or are worried about paying their utility bills. If this affects you, our Rent Support team will be happy to support you to find ways in which to overcome these worries, but you may also find this information and advice from Ofgem helpful:
What should I do if I am struggling to pay my bills?
Information on the employment and financial support announced by the government on 20 March is available on GOV.UK. This includes Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and your rights if your hours are cut or you are laid off. The government has also launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are struggling with money problems or are repaying a debt, options will include:
- Reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
- Payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
- Giving you greater time to pay
- In some cases access to hardship funds
No credit meters will be disconnected during the outbreak.
If you think you can’t afford to pay for any extra gas or electricity used because you’re having to self-isolate at home, support will be available through your energy supplier. Your supplier must take into account how much you can afford, and will explain your options.
How can I top up my prepayment meter if I am self-isolating?
You should tell your supplier straightaway if you can’t top up your meter. This includes if you are ill with coronavirus or following guidance to stay at home and self-isolate, and if you don’t have anyone to help you. The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. Customers with prepayment meters who are self-isolating or unable to leave their home can now speak to their supplier on the options. This may include:
- Someone being sent to top up your prepayment card or token
- Having funds added to your meter credit
- Having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent to you in the post
No credit meters, where you pay for your energy after you have used it, will be disconnected during the outbreak.
Suppliers must tell you:
- What customer service support is available, particularly if you are vulnerable
- How you are supported if you can’t top up or could go off supply
If your meter is outside, it may be helpful for you to leave your meter box unlocked if it's safe to do so, and if you need someone else to top it up. You may also want to arrange for a trusted person to take your top-up card to the shop if needed.
If you have a non-urgent question for your energy supplier, please first check their online and mobile advice if you are able to. Most are regularly updating supporting service information and frequently asked questions relating to the coronavirus national emergency through these channels, as well as via contact centres. This will help keep phone lines available for people who need help most, particularly people in vulnerable situations. If you are a smart meter customer, you should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
Citizens Advice has published more detailed online advice for prepayment customers. You can also their helpline on 0808 223 1133. Calls are free. If you feel overwhelmed, or are unable to deal with your supplier on your own because of personal circumstances, the helpline may also be able to refer you to the Citizens Advice Extra Help Unit. Learn more at: https://ehu.org.uk.