From skipping bills to living on beans - hidden help to keep bills down

From skipping payments to dwelling on beans – hidden assist to maintain payments down

Along with the sky-high costs, vitality prospects endure from various different issues.

From costly late charges to trade points, our mailbag swells with complaints from readers.


Jeremy Hunt confirmed the Vitality Value Assure will rise to £3,000 from AprilCredit score: Alamy
Average energy bill since October 2021
Common vitality invoice since October 2021

This week, our Shopper Champion Lucy Alderson explains what’s taking place – and how one can get assist.


Vitality payments will rise once more subsequent yr.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in his Autumn Assertion that the Vitality Value Assure will rise to £3,000 from April – as a substitute of protecting payments capped at £2,500 for the common family for 2 years.

Prior to now yr, payments have soared by £1,223

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WHEN the Vitality Value Assure was first rolled out in October, some suppliers, together with Ovo Vitality and Octopus, robotically moved prospects off fastened offers and onto customary variable tariffs.

Others, akin to Eon, EDF, So Vitality and Shell Vitality, saved prospects on fastened gives and utilized the low cost.

Octopus and Ovo enable prospects to change again to fastened gives earlier than April, with out paying a price.

This might allow prospects to pay lower than the vitality worth assure.


WE HAVE heard from prospects who’ve been hit with penalties if they’re late paying their invoice.

When The Solar analyzed charges, we discovered an enormous variation within the quantity charged.

And the numbers are complicated and complicated for patrons to check.

For instance, Outfox The Market fees essentially the most upfront of £25 for missed funds.

Scottish Energy fees £10, however this rises to a most of £20 if unpaid after 28 days.

So Vitality additionally fees £20, however stated it “not often” applies the cost.

British Fuel deducts £13 if prospects don’t pay inside 28 days.

After 36 days you’ll be charged a further £7.

Bulb fees £15 for the primary missed fee and £20 for late funds after that.

Many suppliers say they apply these charges as a final resort and there are not any guidelines on how a lot they will cost

Simon Francis, of the Finish Gas Poverty Coalition, stated: “Many individuals have failed direct debits by way of no fault of their very own, akin to having their wages paid late resulting from a financial institution vacation. We might urge vitality firms to waive these fees.”

If you’re charged a late price, ask your organization for assist.


MILLIONS of robust and weak prospects may very well be lacking out on free assist.

Vitality firms ought to provide further help – akin to scorching meals or a lodge keep – throughout energy cuts and a free annual gasoline security examine to these on the precedence providers register.

The regulator Ofgem has referred to as on vitality firms to do higher at figuring out prospects who need assistance.

However The Solar has found that So Vitality, Bulb, Octopus, Outfox The Market, Eon and Eon Subsequent don’t show any data on payments.

Simon stated: “In case you suppose you ought to be on the Precedence Providers Register, contact your supplier.”

The regulator Ofgem has called on energy companies to do better at identifying customers who need help


The regulator Ofgem has referred to as on vitality firms to do higher at figuring out prospects who need assistanceCredit score: Getty


CUSTOMERS used to change suppliers for higher costs, however now there may be little or no distinction.

They might nonetheless need to transfer due to unhealthy customer support experiences, however some are caught.

We discovered three firms that cost a “deposit,” which is money up entrance, to prospects with low credit score

Shell Vitality is charging between £150 and £300 however says solely a “small variety of folks” are affected.

Bulb asks for a deposit that’s twice the scale of an estimated month-to-month invoice.

Ovo Vitality stated the price diverse relying on the client’s creditworthiness.


ENERGY firms can do credit score checks on prospects.

Arduous controls go away a footprint in your file, whereas gentle ones do not.

Bulb, Shell Vitality, Scottish Energy and British Fuel will perform robust checks on sure prospects they contemplate excessive danger.

Earlier than you turn, ask if you’ll endure a tough examine.

Laura Suter, head of non-public finance at funding service AJ Bell, stated: “Often these exhausting checks are saved for debt purposes, so when you have too many in your file it may be a crimson flag to different lenders.”

“I skipped the invoice to afford my kids’s uniform”

STRUGGLING mum-of-two Kirsty Learn confronted an inconceivable selection earlier this yr.

To purchase college uniforms for her kids, Lewis, 15, and Leo, 5, she intentionally paid her electrical energy invoice late and incurred penalties from her provider Scottish Energy.

Mum Kirsty Read owes £850 and has been hit with £50 late charges this year


Mum Kirsty Learn owes £850 and has been hit with £50 late fees this yr

Kirsty, who lives in Bolton and is a full-time carer for her grandfather Francis Lawlor, 85, is falling behind along with her payments.

She owes £850 and has been hit with £50 late fees this yr.

She struggles to maintain up as a result of her revenue of £1,400 a month from advantages typically doesn’t cowl all her month-to-month bills.

She stated: “In August I had to purchase the kids their college uniform and it isn’t low-cost. I needed to skip my vitality invoice or they’d have gone with out.

“I receives a commission each week, which I put in direction of meals and transport to assist my grandfather. Any cash left over goes to my kids.”

A Scottish Energy spokesman stated: “Scottish Energy is dedicated to supporting prospects by way of troublesome occasions.”

“Get a refund and stay on beans”

PENSIONER Steven Campbell was hit with a £470 upfront price when he switched to Ovo Vitality in June due to his poor credit score.

The 73-year-old, from Swindon – who lives with spouse Georgina, 73, who can be retired – wished to change from Outfox The Market however was shocked when he was requested to pay a deposit resulting from his poor credit score.

Pensioner Steven Campbell said:


Pensioner Steven Campbell stated: “Lacking out on £170 makes an enormous distinction once you’re struggling to purchase first rate, wholesome meals”Credit score: Hyde Information & Photos

“I believed it was unfair however I borrowed £300 from my daughter to assist pay it,” stated Steven.

Ovo Vitality advised him he could be a buyer in 5 to 10 days.

However after going greater than a month with out figuring out whether or not the change had been profitable, he referred to as it off in August and returned to Outfox The Market.

He needed to chase a refund for his £470 over two months.

He stated: “At our age we simply cannot afford to have £470 that we will not get again. Our daughter is now struggling and wishes her £300 again that she lent us.

“Shedding 170 kilos makes an enormous distinction once you’re struggling to purchase first rate, healthful meals. We eat frozen and canned meals, and we eat extra beans and spaghetti than we ever have.”

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After The Solar stepped in, Ovo Vitality refunded Stevens’ cash.

A spokesman stated: “We’re very sorry.”

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