Welcome, if you’ve come to this blog post we can only assume that you’ve built a small debt with your energy supplier, something known as ‘fuel arrears’ and now you’re looking for a solution to help you out. In this article we will give you our FIVE top tips that answer the question ‘Can I switch energy supplier if I owe money?’
- Don’t panic
The worst thing you can do when you’ve become indebted to your energy supplier is to panic and get yourself stressed out. The most important thing to know at this stage is that having your energy cut off by your supplier is their LAST RESORT and they won’t do it unless every other avenue has been exhausted. There are even laws in place to protect people from being cut off in the winter (though not everyone qualifies). The rising cost of living means that more and more people each month are struggling to keep up with the bills, so you’re not alone.
- Get on the phone
The best person to ask ‘Can I switch energy supplier if I owe money’ to, surprisingly, is your own energy supplier. They don’t want to lose customers for any reason, so when you do owe them money, they will be incredibly cooperative in trying to find a resolution that works for both parties. Being able to help you and leave you content is part of their mission to improve customer satisfaction ratings, which lead to more people switching to them.
Pick up the phone and see what they can do. It’s most likely that they will offer you a new payment plan that covers your current energy requirements, whilst simultaneously making a contribution to the debt you have built up over time. They may even offer you a weekly or fortnightly option of paying back the debt.
If this doesn’t help, then the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline offers invaluable advice and assistance. It's impartial, efficient and should definitely be your second port of call.
- Move to a repayment meter
If you’re having trouble paying your energy bill month after month, your supplier may offer you a repayment meter. They will give you a card, key, token or maybe a smartphone app, enabling you to top up your energy manually, meaning you can only use the energy you can afford. This pay-as-you-go system offers two problems – it’s a slightly more expensive tariff, and if you run out of money, you immediately get cut off.
A percentage of the money spent on the repayment meter goes towards paying off your energy debt (fuel arrears). Once you’re on the repayment meter, it’s still possible to switch energy supplier, but you mustn’t owe more than £500 for gas and £500 for electricity (separately). The other catch is that a new energy supplier has the option of saying yes or no to your switch, as they must absorb your debt, and factor it in to your new agreement. It must be noted at this point that if your debt is more than 28 days old, you will have a harder time trying to switch.
- Make a list of incomes and expenses
You will make your life much harder if you try and switch energy suppliers without calculating the money you have available. This could be how you came to owe money for energy in the first place.
You should draw a line down a piece of paper, with income on the left, and expenses on the right. For income, add up your wage or salary, pension or benefits. On the right, include expenses such as: food, insurance, extra taxes, transport and rent or mortgage. Figuring out the money you have available is going to aid your current energy supplier in offering you a payment plan that is actually affordable, and won’t result in you increasing your overall debt.
- Who else can help me?
If you’ve read through this article, and found that you are still struggling with assessing your options, seek the government’s help. If you’ve built up an energy debt, failed with the repayment plan, and even the repayment meter is not working, you need to seek help from a higher authority. The government is able to connect their benefit system to the energy companies, and get your bills, and your debt, paid via your benefits. If you’re not on benefits, the government will still be able to provide you with advice that enables you to take a step in the right direction. You could also consider investing in eco-friendly home improvement products to drive down your bills for future years.
Make sure you also explore more topics on switching energy suppliers via My Energy.
To answer the question ‘Can I switch energy supplier if I owe money?’, the answer is yes, but with some big catches. It won’t be plain sailing, but if you take time to do your preliminary research, you're sure to source the best-fit solution, that addresses your immediate needs.