How to manage fuel debt
If you’re in fuel debt, don’t panic. By law, your energy supplier must work with you to sort out an affordable repayment plan. There are several different ways to start repaying your debt. We’ll look at these below.
- It’s very common for people to get into fuel debt.
- Your energy supplier will only ever cut off your gas or electricity supply as a last resort. By law, there are several steps they must take before they can do this.
- In Scotland, companies you’re in debt to can’t seize your possessions unless they get a court order to do so.
Ways to pay debt
The number one thing you can do to get out of energy debt is to contact your energy supplier. It may be tempting to ignore the build-up of debt, but it’s best to try sort things out as soon as you can.
Following our step-by-step guide on how to talk to your supplier if you can’t afford your energy costs will help you have that conversation. You’ll soon be on the way to getting your finances back on track.
There are several different ways that you can repay any money you owe to your energy supplier:
Your gas or electricity supplier can take a look at how much you are currently spending on fuel. You can discuss how much you’re able to pay for this fuel. You can then come to an agreement about how much debt you can afford to pay off. Adding these two figures together will give you one lump sum payment.
This can either be paid every fortnight or every month.
If you can afford £50 a week, £10 might go towards paying your debt.
So, £40 would go towards paying for your energy usage.
Your gas or electricity company may want to install a prepayment meter. With this kind of meter, you pay for your energy up front. You top up using a card for gas, and a key for electricity. Putting the card or key into your meter transfers the credit to it.
As part of the debt repayment plan, an agreed amount will be taken off any of the credit you top up with.
You have agreed to repay £5 a week and you top up your gas card with £20 at the start of the week.
When you put your card in the meter, £5 will be taken as debt repayment, £15 credit will be added to the meter.
You may wish to avoid having a prepayment meter installed. Check out our Prepayment Meter guide to see whether they are right for you.
Fuel bills can be paid directly from some benefits. Job Centre Plus or the Pensions Department can organise this for you.
Any debt that you owe can also be paid off directly from certain benefits. The amount deducted from your benefits will depend upon the type of benefit and the type of debt.
For example, if you receive Universal Credit and the debt is for gas, 5% of your benefit payment would go towards paying your gas debt.
To find out which benefits qualify, and to apply for the Fuel Direct scheme, visit the gov.uk website
Types of fuel debt
Knowing what type of debt you have will help you deal with it most effectively. There are two types of fuel debt:
- Priority debt
- Non-priority debt
This quick guide will help you work out which type of debt you have and what to do to get it cleared.
Priority fuel debt is for the gas and electricity where you live now.
As the name suggests, this type of debt needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
What to do about priority debt
Contact your energy supplier as soon as possible.
See our Ways to contact your energy supplier guide for help.
Remember: your supplier must work with you to come up with an affordable repayment plan.
You should get as much time to repay the debt as it took to build it up.
This is energy debt from a home you’ve lived in before.
It’s still important to clear this debt as soon as you can, but it won’t affect the gas or electricity supply where you live now.
What to do about non-priority debt
Debt charities can help you set up payment plans. They can also deal with any debt collection agencies that may have contacted you.