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8 min read

Considering not paying your energy bill? You might want to take a look at this first

To begin, what is the Don’t Pay UK campaign?

Don’t Pay UK is a campaign encouraging UK residents to pledge to withhold payment to their energy supplier throughout the month of October to strike against the impending price cap rise. The movement strives to force the government and energy companies to reverse energy price hikes, keep prices at an affordable level and end enforcement of pre-payment meters.

While you may be tempted to join the strike by withholding your energy payments in October, it is important to consider all of the risks that could arise as a consequence of missed payments, before doing so.

Don’t Pay UK encourages residents to not pay their energy bills.

The risks of joining the Don't Pay UK campaign

Whether you’re living in rented or owned accommodation, you will have signed a contract with a private energy supplier that ties you into paying for the energy they provide you with.

Gas and electricity bills are known as priority bills, meaning failure to meet payments is likely to result in serious consequences. It is important to note, energy companies have the legal right to take the following actions to recover payments owed to them:

  • You could be charged a late payment fee for missing a payment, which will be recorded on your credit report. There will be more information on your energy supplier’s website in regards to how much late payment fees may be.
  • A default may be recorded on your credit report if you miss payments for three to six months. This can have a serious impact on you credit score, and a default will remain on your credit report for six years.
  • Following a payment default, your energy provider could switch your energy supply to a prepayment meter, also known as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ meter. This requires users to pay for their energy up front. The tariffs available for customers with a prepayment meter are often more expensive than those available to customers who pay by direct debit so this could actually end up costing you more money in the long run.
  • Energy providers could also pass on your debt to a debt collection agency, which could have a significant impact on your credit score.
  • Energy providers could apply to the court to deduct the necessary funds from your wages or benefits. In some circumstances, they could also have the right to send bailiffs to your home.
  • As a last resort, energy providers could stop providing energy to you - this is a very rare occurrence but still one to keep in mind.

What are the alternatives to joining the Don’t Pay UK campaign:

Energy suppliers have a vested interest in working with their customers to ensure they can pay their bills to the best of their ability. If you are worried about the rising costs of energy, contact your supplier for support. They can help discuss your options and find a solution that works best for you, including:

  • Your supplier may help you set up a payment plan to cover what you owe as well as the amount of your current energy use. This will typically be through smaller instalments, at a rate you can afford.
  • If you receive Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Universal credit, you may be able to repay your debts directly through these benefits. A fixed amount will be taken each month to cover what you owe and what you currently use.

A note from one of our friendly Debt Support Centre expert, James Gibson:

‘We understand that life is financially challenging for many, and with the October price cap rise, joining the Don't Pay UK campaign feels like a way to send a strong message to the government about our struggles.

However, there might be better ways to deal with our energy-related debts that wouldn't damage our credit files. There are schemes, grants and benefits available from energy suppliers and the government to help people through these challenging times. We suggest seeing if you qualify for these solutions before considering not paying your bills.

Failing that, many charities and debt help companies can help you find a less drastic solution to your financial problems.’

Still interested in taking part in the campaign?

Legally there isn’t any support for non-payment campaigners - whilst you are using energy, you are expected to pay your bills in most circumstances.

Our Debt Support Centre expert, James Gibson, recommends you do the following:

‘If you feel that you still want to be heard by the government, continue to support the Don't Pay campaign in spirit and sign as many petitions as you can put your hands on. We would recommend that protecting your financial future should remain a top priority. The energy and cost of living crisis should pass, but damaged credit could harm people long after things have improved.’

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