Just before the cold starts to kick in, it’s better to be in credit to your supplier to cover you for the high energy usage period of winter. It’s likely that your direct debit doesn’t increase over this period, so you should be able to cover energy prices by having overpaid enough during spring / summer time.
Research suggests consumers owe £292 million
Despite wanting to have a pot of money left over from summer to cover winter bills, it turns out 2.5million of the UK’s households could be in debt to their energy supplier; with each of these households owing an average of £120.
40% of those in debt are now planning to increase their monthly payments over winter in order to cover them for the energy they’ll be using, plus their debt on top. 16% are planning on paying it off in one lump sum, and a worrying 18% are choosing to just turn a blind eye to the situation.
There’s additional pressure on consumers’ finances from the wholesale cost of energy increasing. Price rises, in particular from small and medium suppliers (including Co-operative Energy, GB Energy and Ecotricity), mean this winter could be even more expensive for some.
What to do when you’re in energy debt
If you’re in debt to your energy supplier the amount will appear on your bill or online account.
Firstly, don’t ignore it.
You can contact your supplier to talk about how you’d like to deal with it, whether that’s incorporating it into your current payments or paying it off in one lump sum.
Once your debt is cleared, you may want to consider switching if your bill is too expensive — especially if you’re on an expensive standard tariff, as this could save you an average of £403 pounds.
Even if you’re on a prepayment meter, you can still switch. Ofgem’s Debt Assignment Protocol means that a supplier has to let you switch away from them if you have less than £500 debt per fuel, but this only applies for prepayment.
Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says:
“If you are in debt, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Your first port of call should be speaking to your energy supplier to discuss the problem and work out ways to help resolve it.
You should also check if you’re eligible for schemes like the Warm Home Discount, which is available for some vulnerable consumers.