Energy suppliers must offer emergency help to customers who can’t pay their bills this winter

Energy suppliers will be required to offer emergency credit to customers who are struggling financially, once new rules come into effect on 15 December.

The new rules, brought in by energy regulator Ofgem, will compel energy suppliers to help customers facing money issues, with emergency credit and repayment plans for those who can’t put money on their prepay meters.

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Who will be able to get help?

This help will be available for those who can’t afford to pay, as well as those who are unable to leave the house to top up their meter, due to coronavirus.

This comes after suppliers agreed in March to help support people affected by the pandemic.

Now, Ofgem has officially updated its licence rules so as to require energy suppliers to offer more help to those who are facing financial hardship.

What help will be available?

As well as offering emergency credit, Ofgem wants suppliers to make sure their credit management policies are suitable, that customers who may be at risk are contacted proactively, and that repayment plans are based on a customer’s ability to pay.

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But the industry watchdog also stressed that while people struggling to pay their bills would be given some leeway, they would ultimately need to pay for whatever energy they use.

According to a report from Citizens Advice, around six million people in the UK have fallen behind on paying at least one household bill during the pandemic.

Ofgem's director of retail Philippa Pickford, said, "Suppliers have stepped up to the challenge of supporting their customers during the Covid-19 crisis, especially those in vulnerable situations.

"Customers who are struggling to pay their bills should contact their supplier as soon as possible. The extra protections we have announced today will help ensure they get some breathing space this winter."

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