Know your rights when speaking to your energy supplier

A woman at a table, using her mobile phone to call the Green Energy Helpline

You have more power than you might think. A little knowledge of your rights can boost your confidence when talking to your energy supplier.   

In this section we’ll go into more detail about the obligations your energy company has.  

You may have heard people talk about Ofgem. Ofgem set the rules that energy suppliers need to follow. Their rules are there to protect customers.

In some cases, if your supplier breaks a rule, you are entitled to compensation. We’ve written a separate guide to compensation that covers this.

Rules for energy suppliers are called license conditions. The rulebooks run to almost 1,000 pages, but don’t worry – we’ve summarized the most helpful regulations below.

When you tell your supplier you’re having difficulty paying your bill or have energy debt, they must offer energy support and: 

  • Come up with an affordable repayment plan 
  • Take payments directly from a benefit you receive 
  • Install a prepayment meter and agree affordable payments 

All three of these options must be offered. You should be allowed to choose. Your supplier isn’t allowed to decide for you.

When working out an affordable repayment plan, your supplier must: 

  • Take into account your circumstances 
  • Monitor the repayments and offer to change them if they’re not affordable 

This information comes from Sections 27.5 – 27.8 of the Supply Standard License Conditions

If you tell your supplier you can’t afford to top up your meter, your supplier must offer: 

  • Emergency credit 
  • Friendly hours. These are times when you can keep using gas or electricity even if you have run out of credit. Friendly hours run overnight, at weekends, and on public holidays. 
  • Extra support credit if you are vulnerable 

When it comes to repaying this extra credit, your supplier must offer you a payment plan you can afford.

When working out what is affordable, your supplier must: 

  • Take into account your circumstances 
  • Take into account the total of the charges you owe on your meter 
  • Monitor the repayments and offer to change them if they’re not affordable 

They also have to offer other ways of repaying any debt on your meter. These might be: 

  • Taking instalments from a benefit you receive 
  • Regular instalments paid directly to your energy supplier 

This information comes from Sections 27.5 – 27.8 and 27A of the Supply Standard License Conditions 

To recover debt, your supplier might want to install or switch you to a pre-payment meter. In January 2024, Ofgem announced new rules for this. We’ve summarised the new rules below.

Suppliers can only switch you to a pre-payment meter without your consent if:

  • They’ve tried to contact you at least 10 times
  • They’ve carried out a welfare visit to your home

Your supplier cannot install or switch you to a pre-payment meter if you would be at high risk as a result. You would be at high risk if:

  • you need a continuous supply of energy for health reasons, including the running of medical equipment
  • no-one in your home is under 75 years
  • you have children under 2 years old in your home
  • someone in your home has severe health issues. These include a terminal illness or illness which is aggravated by a cold home. Examples are: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sickle cell disease.
  • no one in your home household can top up the meter due to a physical or mental incapacity

Your supplier must assess your situation before installing or switching you to a pre-payment meter if:

  • there are children under 5 in the home, or anyone in the home has:
  • serious medical or health conditions. Examples include neurological diseases, mobility conditions, and nutritional issues
  • serious mental or developmental health conditions, or
  • someone in the home is pregnant or recently bereaved

Disconnecting your energy supply should always be the very last resort. Your supplier cannot disconnect you if: 

  • You owe money to a previous supplier.
  • You are bankrupt and the money you owe is from before your bankruptcy. 
  • The debt is for anything other than the gas or electricity that you’ve used. If the money you owe is for having your boiler serviced, for example, you could not be disconnected.    

Suppliers should take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnection over winter if: 

  • You are 66 (pensionable age) or over  
  • You have a disability 
  • You have a chronic illness 

You cannot be disconnected if you are 66 or over and: 

  • You live on your own or 
  • You live with someone under the age of 18 

Your supplier may have signed up to a vulnerability commitment. This means they won’t ever knowingly disconnect you if: 

  • You have children under the age of six 
  • It’s winter and you have children under 16  
  • You cannot safeguard the welfare of yourself or someone in your household due to age, health, financial insecurity, or disability. 

Your energy supplier should say whether they are signed up to the vulnerability commitment on their website. As of October 2022, the following suppliers are signed up: 

  • British Gas/Scottish Gas 
  • Bulb 
  • E 
  • Ecotricity 
  • EDF 
  • Octopus 
  • Outfox The Market 
  • OVO Energy 
  • ScottishPower 
  • SO Energy 
  • Utility Warehouse

The full list of license conditions can be found on Ofgem’s website. We’ve included links below.  

Gas provider rules
Information for customers struggling to pay starts on page 197.

Electricity provider rules
Information for customers struggling to pay starts on page 218.

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