What happens if you don’t pay your energy bills? 91,000 pledge to stop paying in October | Personal finance | Finance
Don’t Pay UK was created in June, and the aim of the movement is to stop Ofgem’s price cap being raised by threatening ‘mass non-payment’ from energy customers across the UK . Speaking to Express.co.uk, Don’t Pay UK claimed the government was not doing enough to help people with energy costs and was “pushing people to poverty. The group has acknowledged that there are legal implications to non-payment of energy bills and on its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page it details what could happen.
The majority of UK energy suppliers do not detail their protocol for ‘non-payment’, but most outline steps for energy debt.
The supplier will likely contact a person first, either by email or mail, about their arrears or they may send reminders that a person has an unpaid bill.
If the supplier does not hear from a customer, they will contact someone more directly to discuss the situation. In case of debt, this is where the customer and supplier discuss and arrange repayment plans.
Richard Lane, director of external affairs at debt charity StepChange, pointed out that energy bills are classed as “priority bills”, meaning there can be “serious consequences if paid missing or late”.
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If the supplier does not respond, in some cases the energy company will send someone to the property to see if they can find and discuss repayment options.
If this continues, the provider can take the matter to court to obtain a warrant to enter someone’s home. They can then also equip the property with a Pay As You Go meter to withdraw a weekly amount to pay off the debt. This however is usually after 28 days.
People will then have to recharge the meter to pay for their energy consumption and the repayment of their debt in the future. A supplier may also forward the details to a debt collection agency.
Finally, in extreme cases, the energy supplier can cut off the power supply to the property.
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However, many energy companies state that this is a last resort and that they will never “knowingly” disconnect a vulnerable person’s power.
If a person has reached state retirement age, a supplier cannot shut off power between October 1 and March 31 if a person lives alone, if they live with other people who have reached the state retirement age or with children under 18. .
Under Ofgem rules, energy companies are required to give people a chance to pay their debt through a “realistic and sustainable repayment plan” before cutting off supply.
Mr Lane added: ‘If you’ve fallen behind on your household bills and are worried about how you’ll pay, it’s important not to wait for help.
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“Contact your provider to let them know you are having difficulty, they may be able to offer support and tell you about grants available to pay a utility bill or negotiate an affordable payment plan.”
Many providers charge extra for late payments, and not paying bills will also hurt a person’s credit rating, making it harder to borrow money in the future.
Don’t Pay UK says on its website that energy supply disconnections for non-payment are “extremely rare”, noting that in 2018 eight cases were reported.
Don’t Pay UK said it would only go ahead with the non-payment strike if it had the “power of numbers”.
Don’t Pay UK said: “If energy suppliers decide to try to disconnect people, they will be forced to first contact thousands, tens of thousands or even more customers about the possibility of disconnecting the diet, but only after 28 days.
“Then they will have to give a chance to put a payment plan in place before, in most cases, asking a court for a warrant. This will cause paralysis and create a backlog of months.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) described the campaign as “a highly irresponsible message that will only drive up prices for everyone”.
The BEIS spokesman told Express.co.uk: ‘While no government can control global gas prices, we are providing £37billion in support to households, including the £400 cut sterling on energy bills and £1,200 in direct support to the most vulnerable households to help with the cost of living.