I’ve heard about the Government scheme to help with the rise of energy bils. How do I apply for the £350?
I’ve been flooded by enquiries from people desperately worried about their energy bills in recent weeks. Most people will now have received notices telling them that price rises of 54% have been applied to their energy bills and direct debits are going up massively. This has led to huge concerns about affordability both now and later in the year – when many reports suggest that bills could hit an average of £3,000.
What’s the Government scheme?
The Government announced a grant/rebate scheme that’s made up of:
- A £200 grant that’s repayable.
- A £150 rebate on your council tax bill that’s automatic and not repayable. But this only applies in England.
Here’s how the scheme works: Download PDF info sheet
The £200 grant is automatic and will be deducted from your energy bill in October 2022. You can’t opt of it or ‘gift’ it to someone who might need it more. And the money is repayable. So from 2023, you’ll automatically have £40 added to your bill and this will continue for the next five years. Again, you can’t opt out of this.
Not everyone will get the discount – your house must fall within certain tax bandings. As for the rebate – why only England? Well, council tax is set by the UK’s devolved Governments who have been allocated funds to cover this rebate (and other things).
However, Wales and Northern Ireland soon confirmed that the payment would be available and Scotland has just announced the same discount too. Check the websites of each Government for details of how the rebate works where you live.
This rebate should be discounted from your bill – but speak to the council if this doesn’t take place but you think you quality.
What help is there for me if I can’t pay my bills?
There are a range of things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your bills but the most important thing is to speak up as soon as possible. OFGEM’s rules state energy providers must work with you to come up with an affordable plan – but you have to be prepared to give them a bit of information about your circumstances in order to do so. These solutions might include:
- A review of your regular bill payments and debt repayments
- Payment breaks or reductions
- More time to pay back outstanding debts
- Access to hardship funds
- Suggestions on better tariffs or energy saving methods
You may have heard of help and support for older people or people who might be vulnerable. The Priority Services Register is a free support service to help all kinds of people who might need this support. You need to contact your energy provider to get on the list but it’s free to do so. Find out more here: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/getting-extra-help-priority-services-register
My energy provider recently went bust – what happens now?
Regulator of the energy industry, OFGEM, has a ‘safety net’ for people affected when their energy company goes bust. Around 27 energy companies collapsed in the wake of wholesale price increases in the last few months, which means millions of people will have found themselves with a new energy provider, new bills and plenty of questions.
As soon as a business goes bust the process will begin. You are allowed to cancel your direct debit after a transfer to the new provider but in theory, you shouldn’t have to do anything.
Because of the sheer scale of transfers that occurred it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen. In fact OFGEM reported over a million switching errors in 2020 – before the energy crisis began.
Just as an extra layer of complication, thousands of people were ‘mid-switch’ at the point their new or old provider collapsed, resulting in confusion over who was providing the supply of gas or electricity at the time – and who should be sorting out billing disputes.
Should I switch?
Switching is ordinarily a great way to save money and Resolver recommends you do this to save cash. In the past, switching energy providers could save you up to £300 a year. But the fact of the matter is making big savings isn’t possible right now – and even if it were, the best advice would be to stay put, at least for the time being. And that includes price fixing.
You can still switch to save money with other services though, from broadband to insurance. And there are lots of other ways to save some cash to counter the rise in energy prices. Check out my guide to saving cash just by cancelling regular payments (potentially saving over £1,000) https://news.resolver.co.uk/start-the-year-with-a-blast-by-claiming-back-some-cash/
I’ve been transferred over to a new provider but I’m missing my credit balance – why?
Worryingly, I’m hearing a lot of complaints from people who have existing credit balances with suppliers who have gone bust but are being told they are ‘missing’.
I understand that this is really troubling, but don’t forget that OFGEM say these credit balances are protected. Often it’s just a case of waiting for the new provider to locate the balance. However, you can make a complaint and go to the Energy Ombudsman if you don’t hear anything. You could also go to the administrator of the old energy provider too. You can find this firm through searching for the old provider on most search drives. Watch out for dodgy firms offering to help you find your balance for a fee.
I’ve just had a new bill and it’s clearly wrong – how can I get help?
By far the biggest source of complaint at the moment is from people being billed huge amounts for their energy consumption, often after a supplier switch. It’s clear from many of the complaints I’ve seen that there’s obviously a problem as the consumption isn’t realistic or feasible.
If this happens to you, report the meter or readings as faulty. If your previous or current supplier has been working off estimates for a long time or not recording your readings, then you may be able to appeal the bill even if the meter is correct. Go through your bills and check when the meter was last read properly. See if you have records of your readings and when you gave them too.
It makes sense to photo your meter whenever you read it so you have a back up – and with prices so high, to give a reading to the energy firm whenever you can. But if all else fails, you can make a formal complaint to the business and go to the Ombudsman if they don’t sort things out.
Your energy provider may ask you to do daily meter readings for seven days to see if there’s an obvious problem. But ultimately, if the readings make no sense, it’s for the energy firm to sort out the problem. This can involve sending out engineers to assess the meter’s performance or even a forensic analysis of your bills.
Featured in Mirror – Martyn James