Energy, switching and rising prices: your rights

3 min read
September 21, 2021

As the weather starts to turn colder and people across the land reluctantly start to get their winter coats out, you might have been thinking about your energy bills and getting a better deal. 

Unfortunately, the news this week is rather grim. The energy price cap announced in August means bills will increase by £139 (or more if you’re on a prepayment meter) due to the extraordinary rise in the wholesale price of energy. And that wholesale price has led to concerns that many smaller energy firms could go under in the coming weeks

But while the Government is looking at the wider issues concerning bailing out firms and supporting the industry, there are already a number of measures in place to protect you should firms go wrong. There’s also help if you’re struggling to pay the bills. 

What happens when an energy company goes bust? 

Energy industry regulator Ofgem has a ‘safety net’ for people affected when their energy company goes bust. You will be transferred to a new provider allocated by Ofgem, though this might take a week or two. This will happen automatically. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • As soon as a business has gone bust the process will begin. You are allowed to cancel your direct debit – don’t do it before – while awaiting transfer to the new provider. 
  • Take a meter reading – why not take a photo of the meter to avoid any quibbles further down the line?
  • Don’t try to switch your provider while this process is underway as it’ll complicate the process. As soon as you are contacted by your new provider you can switch to one you prefer. Though given the rather turbulent times at the moment, you might want to wait for a little while to see what happens when the dust settles. 
  • Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a better tariff – in fact you could end up paying more. So dust off those bills or check your online account so you know what you were paying before versus what you are paying now. 

What does the regulator say? 

Ofgem has told us: “We know that the current situation with high wholesale energy prices is putting pressure on customers and energy companies. This is a global issue. 

“We have the systems and processes in place to ensure that customer needs are always met. For those customers who are with energy companies that can no longer trade, a new supplier will be appointed. Ofgem is working closely with the government to manage the wider implications of the global gas price increase.”

You can find lots of information on your energy rights, compensation for poor service and more on Ofgem’s website.

Should I switch my energy supplier? 

Switching is a great way to save money and Resolver recommends you do this to save cash. 

But we’re recommending holding fire on switching your provider for now. We can expect updates over the coming days and weeks as the industry, Ofgem and the Government sort out the problems with energy pricing. We should have a better idea of what support will be there for smaller energy providers. 

We’ll be updating our guides to switching and your rights when things are a little more settled. But in the meantime, why not read our suggestions and tips so you’re ready to go: 

What help is there for me if I can’t pay my energy bill? 

There are a range of things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your bills but the most important is to speak up as soon as possible. Ofgem’s rules state that energy providers must work with you to come up with an affordable plan – but you have to be prepared to give them a bit of information about your circumstances. 

These solutions might include: 

  • A review of your regular bill payments and debt repayments;
  • Payment breaks or reductions; 
  • More time to pay back outstanding debts;
  • Access to hardship funds; and
  • Suggestions on better tariffs or energy saving methods.

You may have heard of help and support for older people or people who might be vulnerable. The Priority Services Register is a free support service to help all kinds of people who might need this support. You need to contact your energy provider to get on the list but it’s free to do so. 

How do I make a complaint to my energy supplier? 

Resolver can help you make a complaint for free about anything energy related, from incorrect billing to switching errors.

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