Consumer rights expert Martyn James, from complaints site Resolver, explains whether you need to claim the £150 tax refund and how to get the £200 refundable grant
I’ve been inundated with inquiries over the past few weeks from people desperate about their energy bills.
Most people will now have received notifications that price increases of 54% have been applied to their energy bills and direct debits are increasing massively.
This has raised major affordability concerns both now and later in the year – when many reports suggest bills could reach £3,000 on average.
Ofgem has increased its price cap for those on default tariffs paying by direct debit by £693, from £1,277 to £1,971.
Prepaid customers have been hit by a £708 increase from £1,309 to £2,017.
What is the government program?
The government announced a grant/rebate scheme which is made up as follows:
- A refundable grant of £200.
- A £150 rebate on your council tax bill that is automatic and non-refundable. But this only applies in England.
The £200 subsidy is automatic and deducted from your energy bill in October 2022. You can’t choose it or “gift” it to someone who may need it more.
How the energy bill crisis is affecting you
And the money is refundable. So from 2023, £40 will automatically be added to your bill and it will stay that way for the next five years. You cannot unsubscribe here either.
Not everyone gets the rebate — your home needs to fall into certain tax brackets. Speaking of the discount – why only England?
Well, council tax is set by the UK’s devolved governments, which have been allocated funds to cover this rebate (and other things).
However, Wales and Northern Ireland soon confirmed payment would be available and Scotland just announced the same discount.
Check each government’s website to see how the discount works where you live.
This discount should be deducted from your bill – but talk to the municipality if this isn’t happening but you think you’re good.
What help is there for me if I can’t pay my bills?
There are a number of things you can do when you’re struggling to pay your bills, but the most important thing is to speak up as soon as possible.
Ofgem’s rules state that utilities must work with you to create an affordable plan – but you must be willing to give them a little information about your circumstances in order to do so.
These solutions may include:
- A review of your regular bill payments and debt repayments
- payment pauses or reductions
- More time to pay off outstanding debts
- Access to hardship funds
- Suggestions for better tariffs or energy saving methods
You may have heard of help and support for the elderly or vulnerable. The Priority Services Register is a free support service designed to help all types of people who may need this support.
You must contact your energy supplier to be included on the list, but this is free of charge.
Resolver’s analysis of energy complaints data shows that a third of the cases filed in the last 12 months were from people who could be considered “at risk”.
So if you need help or support, make sure the company is aware of your situation when you contact them.
Our team of cost of living experts are here to help YOU through a very difficult year.
They bring you the latest money news and also offer expert advice.
Whether it’s skyrocketing utility bills, the cost of weekly groceries, or increased taxes, our team is always by your side.
Every Thursday at 13:00 they participate in a Facebook Live event to answer your questions and offer their advice. Visit facebook.com/dailymirror/live to watch. You can read more about our team of experts here.
If you have a question – or want to share your story – please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My energy supplier recently went bankrupt – now what?
Energy regulator Ofgem has a ‘safety net’ for those affected if their energy company goes bust.
Around 27 energy companies have collapsed in the wake of wholesale price hikes in recent months, meaning millions will be left with a new energy supplier, new bills and plenty of questions.
As soon as a company goes bankrupt, the process begins. You can cancel your Direct Debit after switching providers, but in theory you shouldn’t have to do anything.
Due to the sheer volume of transfers that have occurred, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. In fact, in 2020 – before the start of the energy crisis – OFGEM reported over a million switching errors.
As an added layer of complication, thousands of people were in the midst of switching when their new or old provider collapsed, leading to confusion over who was providing the supply of gas or electricity at the time – and who should be handling billing disputes.
Should I switch?
Switching is usually a great way to save money, and Resolver recommends you do it to save money. In the past, switching energy supplier could save you up to £300 a year.
But the fact of the matter is, big savings aren’t possible right now — and even if you are, the best advice would be to stay, at least for now. And that includes price fixing.
However, you can still switch to save money on other services, from broadband to insurance. And there are many other ways to save cash to counteract rising energy prices.
Check out my guide to saving cash by canceling regular payments (potential savings of over £1,000).
I switched to a new provider but my credit is missing – why?
Disturbingly, I hear a lot of complaints from people who have existing balances with suppliers who have gone bust but are told they are “missing”.
I understand this is really worrying, but don’t forget OFGEM says these balances are protected. Often you just have to wait until the new provider has found the credit.
However, you can lodge a complaint and contact the Energy Ombudsman if you don’t hear anything. You can also go to the administrator of the old energy supplier.
You can find this company by searching for the old provider on most search drives. Watch out for shady companies that will help you find your credit for a fee.
I just got a new bill and it’s clearly wrong – how do I get help?
By far the biggest source of complaints at the moment are high energy bills, often after switching suppliers.
From many of the complaints I’ve seen it’s clear that there’s a problem as consumption isn’t realistic or feasible.
In this case, report the meter or readings as faulty. If your previous or current supplier has been using estimates for a long time or has not recorded your readings, you may be able to dispute the invoice even if the meter is correct.
Go through your bills and see when the meter was last read correctly. Make sure you have a record of your readings and when you gave them.
It’s a good idea to take a picture of your meter as you read it, just to be on the safe side – and with prices this high, give the energy company a reading whenever you can.
But if all else fails, you can lodge a formal complaint with the company and contact the ombudsman if they don’t get things sorted.
Your utility may ask you to take meter readings daily for seven days to determine if there is an apparent problem. But ultimately, if the readings don’t make sense, it’s up to the energy company to fix the problem.
This can include sending engineers to assess the meter’s performance, or even a forensic analysis of your bills.
How do I complain?
Resolver can help you file a complaint for free on any energy issue, from incorrect billing to switching errors.
There is also a free energy ombudsman if you are still not satisfied.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/im-struggling-pay-energy-bill-26604907 "I'm struggling to pay my energy bills - how do I apply for the £350 government grant?"