I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with your bills. Increases to energy costs and other goods and services has meant that everyone is feeling the pinch.
It is important to remember that you are not alone in your situation, and help is available with debt and energy costs.
Enforcement & Supplier Action
Energy suppliers can pursue customers who owe money to them through the courts. In Scotland, a decree can be sought for non-payment of a debt, with potential to have impacts on credit ratings and the ability to obtain credit further down the line.
As you have outlined with your own situation, suppliers can also transfer customers onto prepayment meters to pay back debts owed to them as an alternative. In these circumstances the debt that is owed is repaid through deductions from whatever top ups are made to the meter.
Prepayment meters are usually more expensive than standard meters, with higher standing charges and unit rates. With repayment of debt through this type of meter, it is often the case that not everything that is topped up goes to actual energy usage, with a portion assigned to the debt owed that is registered on it.
Prepayment customers on smart meters can be switched over to ‘prepayment mode’ remotely by suppliers if the correct process has been followed to do so. The energy company may gain access to properties by court order to change the meter in situations where a customer has older traditional metering and is unwilling to cooperate with the change.
It is important to reach out to your supplier to discuss your situation in the first instance – they may be able to come to an alternative arrangement in relation to the debt or refer you on to hardship funds that may be able to help. Suppliers should consider your ability to pay, and work with you to come to an affordable repayment arrangement.
Even if you are switched to a prepayment meter, you can discuss your options with your supplier in relation to how any debt is paid back to them.
Support from Advice Direct Scotland
If you are having difficulty getting through to your energy supplier using the usual methods, energyadvice.scot can help. energyadvice.scot provide free, practical advice and information on energy-related matters to the citizens of Scotland and can answer energy-related enquiries. Our specialist advisers are available on 0808 196 8660 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).
Advice Direct Scotland also have other services that may be able to help.
The Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund seeks to provide financial relief to energy consumers who are experiencing significant financial hardship and strives to provide this support to households regardless of the fuel or payment method used. This includes prepayment customers who are struggling with debt and rationing energy to get by.
You can find more about the fund by visiting their website at www.homeheatingadvice.scot.
moneyadvice.scot provide free information and support on a wide-range of debt-related issues. Their specialist debt advisers can work with you to assess your current situation, look at your income and expenditure and decide what to do next. You can call them on 0808 196 2316 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).