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Utility debts

What to do if you can't pay your bills

If you're struggling to afford your gas and electricity bills, contact your supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them.

Your supplier has to help you come to a solution and you should try to negotiate a deal that works for both of you.

1. Agree a payment plan with your supplier

Tell your supplier that you want to pay off your debts in instalments as part of a payment plan.

You'll pay fixed amounts over a set period of time, meaning you'll pay what you can afford. The payment plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use.

Your supplier must take into account:

  • how much you can afford to pay - give them details about your income and outgoings, debts and personal circumstances
  • how much energy you'll use in future - they'll estimate this based on your past usage, but give them regular meter readings to make this more accurate

2. If you cant afford the payment plan

Speak to your supplier again if you think they're charging you too much or you're struggling to afford the repayments. You can try to negotiate a better deal. If you don't, your supplier might make you have a prepayment meter installed.

3. Pay off your debt through your benefits

You might be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount for your current use.

It can be more convenient than having a prepayment meter fitted (which your supplier might try to do if you can't agree a payment plan) and you won't risk running out of gas or electricity.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you're not working)

Contact the Jobcentre and let them know you want to set up Fuel Direct. They'll contact your supplier and tell them you want to pay off your debt under the Fuel Direct Scheme - your supplier must agree to it.

Your supplier will set up the repayments and let you know how much you'll be paying.

4. If you don't come to an arrangement

  • If you're not able to agree a payment plan with your supplier, or you don't stick to a plan you previously agreed to, your supplier might try to force you to have a prepayment meter installed.
  • In very rare cases your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

You can get more help and advice by contacting the Citizens Advice via the Citizens Advice Website link (opens new window) or by their helpline: 03454 04 05 06

Find your local debt advice provider through Sunderland information point link (opens new window).

If you would like further information you might find the links below useful:

Managing your debts

Rent and mortgage arrears

Make your money go further

Your Benefits

Step Change - energy and water bills (opens new window)

Take control of debt (opens new window)

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