Major energy supplier pauses energy bill debt action over Christmas – what to do if you're struggling | The Sun

A MAJOR energy firm has halted forcing struggling customers on to prepayment meters over the Christmas period.

Customers who fall into debt with energy providers can be moved on to pay as you go meters where they have to top up for their gas or electricity.

But it can often be a more expensive payment method and force customers into further financial trouble.

Ovo Energy, which has already halted forcing customers onto these types of meters, has now said it will continue the measure until December 31.

It comes as campaigners call for an immediate ban on compulsory PPM installations, which are made under court warrants.

On December 22, Raman Bhatia, Ovo Energy's chief executive, said in a letter to campaigners pausing prepayment meter (PPM) transfers was the latest measure it had introduced to help customers this year.

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Mr Bhatia wrote: "I would like to reassure you that we understand the critical role and responsibility that we have in supporting and protecting consumers this winter and beyond.

He said Ovo "will not disconnect any household for non-payment throughout winter".

But he did not commit to a longer-term ban on forced prepayment meter installations.

He added: "Unfortunately we are unable to commit to ending all customer transfers to PPMs for the entire winter period because we believe that it would be irresponsible of us as a business to leave any arrears unaddressed and allow them to build up into an unmanageable amount, given the critical role and responsibility that we have to support and protect our consumers this winter and beyond.

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"As such, we consider mode-switching to be a meaningful intervention provided that best practice is followed and customer vulnerability is assessed at every stage of the process."

Customers on PPMs have to regularly top up, but they are charged at a higher rate and can often be forced further into debt.

In some cases, people "self-disconnect", meaning they don't top up their meters and are left without gas and electricity.

In August, The Sun Money spoke to a number of energy customers struggling on prepayment meters and called on government and Ofgem to do more to support them.

Mr Bhatia said Ovo was "proactively" reaching out to customers they believed to be at risk of self-disconnecting.

What can you do if you're struggling to pay for your energy?

There are some measures you can take if you're struggling to pay for your energy.

If you fall into debt, you can always approach your supplier to see if they can put you on a repayment plan before putting you on a prepayment meter.

This involves you paying off what you owe in instalments over a set period of time.

If your supplier offers you a repayment plan you don't think you can afford, speak to them again to see if you can negotiate a better deal.

Beyond this, a number of suppliers offer customers grants if they're struggling to pay for energy bills.

A grant is a sum of money you don't have to pay back, so it's essentially free cash.

British Gas, Scottish Power, Ovo Energy, E.On, E.On Next, EDF, Bulb Energy, Octopus Energy and Shell Energy all offer the grants.

For the full list of providers offering grants, you can see our list here.

Plus, you might be able to get help from charities that can help you pay off your debt.

StepChange is one such charity, and you can call them for free advice on 0800 138 1111.

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Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing money-sm@news.co.uk

A list of other includes:

  • Money Helper – 0800 138 7777
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000

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