The rise, mainly due to a big increase in wholesale energy prices, is going to increase pressure on the most hard-up. Concerned about the impact regulator Ofgem is advising anyone struggling to pay their energy bills to contact their supplier as soon as possible.
It is vital to remember that its rules require suppliers to put customers who are behind on their bills on a realistic repayment plan based on their ability to pay.
Prepayment meters that customers are struggling to top up due to financial hardship or because they are self-isolating are also entitled to emergency credit.
Customers should also ask their suppliers if they are eligible for government schemes like the Winter Fuel Payment or Warm Home Discount rebate.
Consumers who want to avoid the increase and save up to £100 should shop around ahead of the increase on 1 April. Cu
The price cap protects consumers who have not switched energy provider by ensuring they pay a fair price for their electricity and gas.
Although it is increasing, it continues to save an estimated £75-£100 per household a year.
Ofgem’s chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “I know the increase in the price cap comes at a time when many households are facing financial hardship. My message to anyone struggling to pay their energy bill is to contact your supplier – there is a package of support available to help you.
“There is still time for to beat the increase and save £100 a year by shopping around for a better deal before 1 April. If you don’t want to or are unable to switch supplier, you can contact your supplier and ask them to put you on a cheaper deal.”
- Winter Fuel Payment: An automatic payment, if you are eligible, between £100 and £300 that is tax-free to help pay with heating bills if you were born on or before 5 October 1954. Those that qualify but don’t get paid automatically, will need to make a claim via gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/
- Warm House Discount: A rebate of £140 each year on an electricity bill, where households are eligible through either the ‘core’ group where they receive it automatically or ‘broader’ group where they should apply via their supplier if eligible.
- Cold Weather Payment: If the average temperature in an area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days, a household can get £25 for each seven-day period of this cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
- The Priority Services Register provides additional help available for customers who are in vulnerable circumstances with access to free extra (non-financial) services including priority support if their power supply stops working, for meter reading and tailored accessible communications. Customers can contact their supplier to be added to the register if they are eligible.
Suppliers also have to:
- provide emergency credit and friendly-hours credit for prepayment meter customers
- offer additional support credit to prepayment customers in vulnerable situations
- put customers on realistic and sustainable debt repayment plans based on a customer’s ability to pay
Some suppliers may also:
- have trust funds and hardship funds to help customers struggling with their bills. Customers should speak to their supplier to see if they qualify for these.
- offer payment breaks or reductions in how much is paid
- refer customers who are struggling to pay to third party debt advisers
- suspend credit meter disconnections for unpaid bills
Citizens Advice also provides a free, impartial helpline service