Speaking to your supplier if you can’t afford your energy bills

energy bill

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, the first thing to do is speak to your supplier. The sooner you talk to your energy supplier, the sooner they can help with energy support.  

We know it might seem daunting to make contact. This guide will give you the confidence to have the conversation. We’ll cover speaking to your supplier over the phone, as well as through live chat.  

We’d also recommend checking our Financial support section. When everything feels too expensive, make sure you’re not missing out on extra help.

Before the call/live chat 

You’ll be well prepared for the conversation if you’ve got the following to hand:

Your supplier’s phone number should be on a recent bill or letter. It should also be on their website. If you’re having trouble finding it on their site, try a Google search. For example, search: “ScottishPower phone number”.

Whoever you speak to will ask for your account number. You should be able to find this on a recent bill or letter from your supplier. It’s usually somewhere near the top.

If you’re struggling, your energy supplier has to come up with an affordable solution to help with bills. They’ll ask you what you can afford to pay. 

You can use a budgeting tool to work this out. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau have a handy budgeting tool on their website: Citizen’s Advice Budgeting Tool

Your supplier might ask you for a meter reading. This helps them understand how much energy you’re using. They might use your reading to work out a more affordable payment plan. Check out our How to read your meter guide for help.

On the call/live chat 

Before you’re connected to an advisor 

You might have to go through an automated service.  

On the phone, you may need to choose from several options. Try to pick the options that best match the reason for your call. 

On the live chat, you may also be asked to choose an option that best matches your reason for getting in touch. You might also be asked to enter your name, address and account number at this point.  

When you’re connected to an advisor 

When you’ve gone through the options, you should be connected to an advisor. The advisor will ask how they can help.

The result you want is: 

  • An affordable plan to pay your current bill 
  • An affordable plan for future bills 

To get the best result: 

  • Explain your situation to the advisor 
  • Ask if your energy supplier has any grants or hardship funds you can use 
  • Tell the advisor what you can afford to pay. Ofgem’s rules mean your supplier has to come up with an affordable payment plan. Remember, you can use the free Citizen’s Advice Bureau Budgeting tool here: Citizen’s Advice Budgeting Tool 
  • If you want payments to come directly out of your benefits, let the advisor know. There’s a scheme called Fuel Direct which lets you do this. 

The advisor now knows how much you can pay. Some of this money will go towards paying your debt. The rest will cover your energy costs. You can discuss how to split this. For example: 

  • You owe your supplier £500 
  • You tell them you can afford £50 a week 
  • You agree £10 a week will go towards paying the debt 
  • £40 a week will go towards your energy costs

Before the end of the call/live chat 

  • Ask the advisor to repeat what has been agreed 
  • If you’re on a call, write this down, along with the time and date. You can also ask the advisor to send you a letter confirming what’s been agreed 
  • If you’re on a live chat you should be able to save a copy of the chat at the end of the call. You can also ask for the advisor to confirm what’s been agreed by sending you a letter 
  • Check with the advisor whether you need to do anything 
  • When you are happy that an agreement has been reached, you can end the call or live chat 
  • If you are not happy, see the advice below 

If no agreement has been reached 

  • Tell the advisor that you want to speak to a supervisor 
  • If you are put through to a supervisor, follow the same steps as before: explain your situation and what you would like to happen 
  • If the advisor cannot put you through to a supervisor, or if you cannot reach an agreement with the supervisor, make a note of their name, along with the time and date 
  • The next step will be to make a complaint. Our Problems with your energy supplier guide will take you through the process.