Money Wellness
man drowning in bills
calendar icon05 Apr 2024

Energy suppliers choosing to take more and more customers to court to recover unpaid bills

The number of households seeking help to deal with court action over their unpaid energy bills has doubled in the last year, Citizens Advice has found.

The charity said suppliers were increasingly opting to take their customers to court to recover their energy debts, which could ruin household finances for years.

Last year, they offered advice to 349 households who had a County Court Judgement over unpaid gas and electricity bills last year, up from 179 in 2022.

Allegedly, the use of legal action to chase up unpaid energy bills has increased since Ofgem introduced strict restrictions on the forced installation of prepayment meters.

Data from Ofgem shows that energy debt continued to rise by £2.8m a day in the second half of last year, meaning many are still struggling to pay their energy bills.

 Daniel Portis, a deputy director at Energy UK, which represents energy companies, said suppliers only used court action as a last resort.

“Given the pressures facing households, suppliers have pledged to go further than ever before in helping customers through tens of millions of pounds of discretionary support and voluntary debt commitments,” he said.

Need support with your energy bills?

If you’ve fallen behind with your energy bills, the first thing you should do is get in touch with your supplier. Some offer grants to help customers who are really struggling or you may be able to agree a payment plan for the amount you owe.

If you're vulnerable, it’s also worth finding out if you can sign up to the priority services register. This is a free scheme that provides access to extra help from your energy supplier. Find out more about the priority services register

Read our guide on what to do about energy arrears.

Am I eligible for government support?

  •  Cold weather payments are an automatic bank top-up of £25, paid to eligible households when the average temperature has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for seven consecutive days at the weather station linked to an eligible person’s postcode between November and March. Check if you're eligible.
  • Winter fuel payments are paid to those born before 25 September 1957 and they're £250 and £600 to help with heating bills. Claim here. 
  • The warm home discount scheme is a £150 discount off your electricity bill, paid directly from your supplier, and if you're eligible, you don't need to apply. The scheme reopens in October.

Debt help

Our free debt advice is available to people all over the UK, online or over the phone. We’ll go through your finances in detail and explain your options. You might be surprised at the range of help available. We can:

  • help you with budgeting
  • advise you on debt solutions
  • check what benefits you're entitled to

 There are various debt solutions available that reduce your monthly debt repayments and even write off some of your debt. We’ll let you know if any of them are suitable for you. All our advice is free. Some debt solutions are free, while others come with a fee. We’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision and, if we recommend a debt solution and you decide to go ahead, we’ll help get it set up.

You can read our guide for more details before getting in touch if you’d like.

 

Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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