With the fresh forecasting by Cornwall Insights set to push the October 1st 2022 price cap up by a staggering 78%, many Brits are left wondering what on earth they are going to do.
DebtBuffer is here to help and give you the simple facts in plain English so you can work out what you can do.
No1 – DON’T PANIC.
Energy companies are obliged to help and must accept budgeted repayment plans. We’ll explain this more below. As tempting as it is with the wall-to-wall media coverage and how worried you might be, try to keep a cool head. The entire nation is in the same situation.
No2 – CONTINUE PAYING, DON’T CANCEL DIRECT DEBITS, GO INTO HIDING OR REFUSE TO PAY
There is a growing discourse on social media (rightly too) about whether there should be a massive protest of non-payment come October 1st. Do not do this. We’ve calculated doing so would negatively impact the average person’s credit score by almost 500 points and push people into the worst credit score possible
No3 – GATHER ALL YOUR FINANCIAL AFFAIRS
Being on top of your exact financial situation is helpful for a number of reasons. But when dealing with your energy supplier it will need to be completed anyway so that they can see your exact financial situation and work with you to agree a repayment plan that helps you better cope with these insane new charges. DebtBuffer has a free budget sheet template HERE you can use.
No4 – CONTACT YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER TO SEEK HELP
You may wish to email (or post) your energy supplier asking them to help agree more affordable repayment terms with them. Under ofgem rules they are obliged to help. HERE is a free template for you to use. (just delete and fill out the yellow placeholder bits and then copy and paste it into an email or attach it or print it).
Your supplier will usually want their bill paid before the next bill is due, but this may not be possible. If you have debt, contact your supplier and ask for a payment arrangement based on what you can afford.
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.
TOP TIP 1: If you are unsure what you can offer, go with a really low amount first. It will then be up to the energy company to make a counter offer of repayment.
TOP TIP 2: Try not to lose your temper or be rude to anyone you are dealing with, especially over the phone. As difficult as it might be to hold it all in, the person on the other end of that phone is also going to be facing the same energy prices as you and feeling the squeeze and you will get more out of them being nice.
Your energy supplier has to take into account your ability to repay your energy debt. A 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 either:
- accept payments by regular instalments based on an agreed plan;
- use Fuel Direct if you are on particular benefits; or
- agree repayment 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.
No5 – REGISTER AS VULNERABLE IF YOU QUALIFY
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.
What qualifies as vulnerable?
Many things can make us vulnerable or put us in a vulnerable situation. You could be considered vulnerable if you:
- have reached your state pension age
- are disabled or have a long-term medical condition
- are recovering from an injury
- have a hearing or sight condition
- have a mental health condition
- are pregnant or have children under 5
- have extra communication needs (such as if you don’t speak or read English well)
- cannot safeguard your welfare or the welfare of other members in your household because of your age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity
- are eligible for the Priority Services Register – a support service for vulnerable people.
You might be in a vulnerable situation for other reasons if your situation isn’t listed. For example, if you need short-term support after a stay in hospital or have financial difficulties. If you aren’t sure, always speak to your supplier or network operator and explain your situation.