Skip to content
Need help? Call our Freephone 0800 260 5907

COVID-19 and vulnerable energy customers

Ofgem, who regulate the UK’s energy suppliers, have put emergency measures in place, to support customers during this time.
Effective from 19th March, all domestic UK energy suppliers have signed an industry agreement to ensure ‘measures include ensuring prepayment and pay-as-you go customers remain supplied with energy through challenging times and supporting all customers in financial distress’. More info here.
The situation is rapidly evolving and in weeks to come we may see many customers struggling to pay their energy bills and plans from suppliers are also in place to address this. However, the priority for now is helping vulnerable customers, especially those out of the 4 million customers in the UK who are on pre-payment meters.
Coronavirus energy help

General advice for those on pre-payment meters:

  • Precautionary measures include checking credit and topping up extra where possible to prepare for the possibility of isolation.
  • Making a list of friend, family or neighbours who may be able to help you top-up
  • Checking if friends, family or neighbours have enough credit on their pre-payment meters and if they have a process in place for support
  • Smart meter customers can top-up online and often through an app
  • If your local top up shop closes please contact your supplier. Paypoint.com and Payzone.co.uk list alternative vendors online, and the Post Office also provide top ups for some suppliers
Paying at Paypoint

Self-isolation and Pre-payment meters:

  • Suppliers are advising that where possible you ask if any friends, neighbours or family can top up for you
  • If the above is not possible please contact your energy supplier (many suppliers are offering extra support such as top-up vouchers, keys with credit via post or from engineer visits. More here)
  • If your local top up shop closes please contact your supplier. Paypoint.com and Payzone.co.uk list alternative vendors online, and the Post Office also provide top ups for some suppliers
  • Some suppliers are in the process of extending the emergency credit function to ‘give greater flexibility and ensure prepayment customers can stay on-supply’
  • If your supplier has not announced similar guidance yet do not panic. Contact them directly.
Person on their laptop

Ofgem published guidance this morning stating: ‘Customers with prepayment meters who are self-isolating or unable to leave their home can now speak to their supplier on the options. This may include someone being sent to top up your prepayment card or token, having funds added to your meter credit or having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent to you in the post.’

E.ON have listed for those self-isolating and also below 50p for electricity or off supply for gas to send an engineer covering different procedures depending if the meter is inside or outside the property (more here). Octopus energy have planned that: ‘Emergency credit will be made available for Prepayment and vulnerable customers affected by the virus’. Similar measures from other suppliers are expected shortly.

Vulnerable people:

Please identify yourself as vulnerable to your supplier via the Priority Services Register (PSR). It’s free to do so and lets them know that you need extra support. You should sign up to the PSR so your supplier can support you if you:

  • are of pensionable age
  • are disabled or chronically sick
  • have a long-term medical condition
  • have a hearing or visual impairment or additional communication needs
  • are in a vulnerable situation.

There are more vulnerabilities and information on this here.

Find out how to apply for the Priority Services Register here.
Elderly lady at home

Pre-payment meters:

For more information on why pre-payments meters are typically more expensive than standard meters and how to switch from a pre-payment to a standard meter please visit here.

Steps we can all take:

For any non-urgent energy queries try emailing or using online chat with your energy supplier instead. This will help keep the phone lines free for any vulnerable customers who don’t have online access.

Wider picture

Energy suppliers like all other organisations are being faced with the issues of a reduced workforce and their business contingency plans include stopping or reducing all non-urgent works on power lines or gas pipes to focus on essential repairs.

Energy company employees including vulnerable customer support call teams and essential repair engineers, like everyone else, are also at risk of being ill themselves or having to isolate on behalf of a family member. These are all considerations the energy companies and Ofgem are working on together to provide constant energy supply to British homes.

However, this is uncharted territory. Suppliers have faced supply issues before over storm damage but have never before have faced a scenario affecting their workforce on this scale. The government have suggested that 4/5 of the population could be affected by the virus.

The key message so far is that suppliers will be offering support and flexibility in response to the pandemic. Suggestions seen so far include: postponed bill due dates and removing debt charges for late payment.

In recognition of the scale for the impact the government announced further increase to the UK’s emergency budget outlining financial support for business continuity and protection for vulnerable members of the public, with details to be finalised in the coming weeks.  More detail on this here.

Final reminder that all services in the UK are urging non-urgent queries to be made via online livechat or email where possible to help clear lines for vulnerable customers without internet access.

Water: 

Southern Water and Portsmouth water have also posted advice on the how covid-19 affects their services.

Both companies will still be attending emergency jobs with extra precautions.

They have also advised if customers are worried about bills (especially those on water meters) to contact them directly. If struggling to make a payment you can contact:

  • Southern Water on 0330 303 0277
  • Portsmouth Water on 023 92 499888

To check if you are eligible for any help paying your bill check here for Southern Water and here for Portsmouth water.

If you are vulnerable you can also register on the priority services register for free with Southern Water here and Portsmouth Water here.

 

If in doubt:

Telephone off the hook