Payment of Bills
This code provides you with protection if you are struggling to pay your gas or electricity bills or if you get into debt with your gas or electricity supplier.
If you are struggling to pay your electricity or gas bills:
- If you are worried about your ability to pay your gas or electricity bill, you should contact your supplier. Your supplier is required to work with you to help you avoid getting into debt or building up a large amount of debt with them. They can support you such as through setting up a suitable payment plan and/or directing you to organisations that can help you with debt issues.
- Your supplier must work with advice-giving organisations and charities that help people who are at risk of going into debt or are having difficulty paying bills. Your supplier will be able to provide you with contact details of these charities and advice-giving organisations if you need their assistance.
- A change in circumstances such as redundancy or illness might affect your ability to pay your gas or electricity bills. You should notify your supplier if this affects you as they must take into account your individual circumstances and can help you manage your payments.
- Using energy more efficiently can help you reduce your bills. Your supplier can provide you with energy efficiency advice.
If you have debt with your energy supplier:
- If you already have a debt with your gas or electricity supplier, they are required to work with you to set up a repayment arrangement that is suitable to your personal circumstances and your ability to pay.
- You can choose the method used to pay back your debt, such as Direct Debit, cash or prepayment meter
- You will not be expected to pay off all your debt in a single transaction, unless you would like to.
- If you are having difficulty in meeting the payments for your debt repayment plan, contact your supplier and they will work with you to develop a new repayment plan that is suitable for your needs. If you feel this has not been done or that the repayment plan they set up is not suitable you can go back to your supplier and ask them to review the payment plan again or you can seek help from the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI).
- If you pay monthly or bi-monthly and are finding it hard to pay your bills, your supplier can install a prepayment meter, this can make it easier for you to monitor your energy usage. (please see the Code of Practice on Prepayment Meters for more information)
- If you have a prepayment meter and have debt with your supplier, your supplier must contact you to agree the percentage of each of your top-ups they will use to pay off the debt you owe them. The percentage will be based on your ability to pay and cannot be more than 40% of your top-up (unless you specifically want this and request in writing for a higher percentage to apply). So, for example, if you top up £20, your supplier cannot take more than £8 from this to pay off any debt you have with them.
If you are worried about your supplier disconnecting your energy supply:
- Disconnection is always the last resort, and you will not be disconnected if you are engaging with your supplier and agree a repayment plan.
- For gas customers, before your supplier can disconnect you for unpaid debt, they first must contact you to provide you with the option to either:
- 1. Pay off your debt in full;
- 2. Start a repayment plan; or
- 3. Agree to have a prepayment meter installed. If you agree to any of these three options your supplier cannot disconnect your gas supply.
- If you are classified as vulnerable (you are of pensionable age, disabled, chronically sick or live with someone who is vulnerable) your supplier cannot disconnect your electricity or gas supply between 1 October – 31 March. If your supplier disconnects you over this period, they must reconnect you within 24 hours (on working days) and not charge you for this.
- If you have an unresolved complaint or dispute in process with your supplier, they cannot disconnect you for unpaid debt.
- If your electricity or gas is disconnected by your supplier they must provide you with the information on how you can reconnect your supply at a later date and the amount this would cost.
For the full Code of Practice on Payment of Bills click here.