There are two main reasons:
Firstly, energy suppliers are required by their licence conditions to offer you a range of ways to pay. It is a regulatory condition of their right to supply.
Secondly, some suppliers are beginning to offer a larger range of payment options as a way to differentiate themselves in the market place. More ways to pay means you’re more likely to find a payment method to suit your needs – which can only be a good thing!
But watch out – the cost to the energy supplier varies dependant on the type of payment. This is why you may be offered a discount for paying in a certain way (direct debit for example), or charged more for others. Choosing a cheaper payment method may help save you some money on those energy bills.
There are a variety of different payment methods, and there really is no one-size-fits-all. Read through the options and then decide which payment method will best fit your needs.
There are a variety of different payment methods, and there really is no one-size-fits-all. Read through the options and then decide which payment method will best fit your needs.
If you are looking for the cheapest way to pay your energy bills, then monthly direct debit will almost always be the best way to pay, and it is also the most convenient.
Direct debit payments are made automatically from your bank account to your supplier on a pre-arranged date either each month or each quarter. To set up a direct debit payment scheme, you must either have a bank or building society account. You will also need to complete a direct debit mandate, which your new supplier will forward onto your bank.
Direct debit payments are protected by the Direct Debit Scheme, which means that:
You can cancel a direct debit at any time by writing to your bank or building society.
The supplier must give you prior written notice, usually 14 days, if they want to change the date or the amount of the payment.
If your money is ever collected incorrectly, your bank or building society will give you a full and immediate refund, even if the supplier made the error.
The direct debit amount will normally be calculated on the basis of your actual or projected annual energy bill and divided into 12 equal monthly instalments. This amount is normally reviewed once a year and your monthly payments are adjusted accordingly.
Allows you to budget more effectively and to spread your payments over the course of the year.
Ensures that you will not forget to pay your bills, hence avoiding potential hassles with payment reminders and disconnection notices.
Direct debit payments are protected by the Direct Debit Scheme.
It is almost always the cheapest way to pay.
The only downside with monthly direct debit is that you give up some flexibility in the way you manage your finances.
Variable direct debit is different to monthly direct debit in that your actual energy bill is deducted from your bank account at the end of a fixed calendar period in which you use the gas or electricity. This calendar period varies depending on the tariff you signed up for, and can be a quarter, a half year or a year.
All the advantages that apply to direct debit payments will also apply to variable payments. The main difference is that you only pay for the gas or electricity that you use, in the period in which you used it.
Your bill payments will continue to be lumpy, with higher bills in the winter than in the summer.
Certain suppliers will charge more for energy paid by variable direct debit because they do not get the same benefits of continuous cashflow that they get from fixed monthly payments.
There are two main ways to pay for your energy with your credit or charge card.
Calling your supplier, following receipt of your bill and charging it to your card.
Having the bill automatically paid with your card under a Continuous Authorised Transaction (CAT).
With CAT schemes, your actual or projected annual energy bill is divided into periodically equal instalments (monthly or quarterly) and automatically billed to your card.
The details of which schemes and cards apply to different tariffs are summarised on the tariff results pages.
Other than the potential savings on offer, credit card payment also gives you an additional interest free credit period, which can be anything up to 56 days, before you have to pay your bill;
It allows you to obtain additional benefits applicable to the credit card of your choice, such as Air Miles, or Barclaycard Reward Points.
CAT schemes allow the supplier to alter the timing and the amount of the payment prior to informing you. However, they are still obliged to inform you, in writing, that the change has been made.
CAT schemes do not offer the same level of protection as Direct Debit Schemes. If errors are made with your payments you need to rely on your supplier correcting them.
If you want to cancel a CAT, you need the authorisation of the company debiting your card. This will normally happen automatically if you decide to cancel your contract.
If you forget to pay your credit or charge card bill on time you will have to pay interest on the unpaid bill at the monthly rate applicable to the card.
Charge card payments are administered in the same way as credit card payment schemes. The main difference is that you must clear your charge card account by the due-date; therefore your interest free period is shorter. However, if you pay your energy bill using your charge card, you will benefit from any loyalty schemes offered by the charge card company.
This option allows you to pay your bills either by calling your bank, or paying online.
Prepayment schemes ask you to pay up-front for the energy that you use by inserting coins, tokens or cards into your meter.
Also known as standard credit, you receive your estimated or actual quarterly bill by post, and pay it either by cheque through the post or by cash through your post office. This payment method also includes the option of paying by postal order.
Allows you to keep control of your finances.
Does not have the convenience of automatic payment schemes such as direct debit, standing order or continuous authorised credit card transactions.
If you forget to pay your bill, you could face problems with payment reminders.
Due to expenses incurred for processing cheques, postal orders or cash, this is a more expensive way of paying for your energy bills compared with other payment methods.
As energy prices vary by area, we need to know the postcode of where you want your new energy supply. This is to determine the best energy offer available to you.
This information will help us identify the tariff that you are currently on. As prices vary by supplier, we need to do this so that we can calculate the savings that you can make by moving to a new supplier or tariff.
This information will help us identify the tariff that you are currently on. As prices vary depending upon how you pay your bill, we need to do this so that we can calculate the savings that you can make by moving to a new supplier or tariff.
To match you to the tariff best suited to your needs we need to know how much energy you consume. You can either provide this information directly or provide us with your annual bill. From the combined details of your annual bill, current supplier and current payment method, we can calculate your annual consumption.
To match you to the tariff best suited to your needs we need to know how much energy you consume. You can either provide this information directly or provide us with an estimate of your annual bill from which we will calculate your annual consumption.
Choosing a New Supplier
There are multiple factors that you should consider in working out which product and supplier is right for you. These include prices, payment options, contract terms, and any other benefits and services on offer. Fortunately, this service has pulled together all this information in one easy to use website, in order to make this easier for you.
Changing Your Current Supplier
Your new supplier will arrange the transfer for you. You do not need to contact your previous supplier. Once you have signed up for a new supply contract, your new supplier will let your previous supplier know on what date the change is taking place. You should ensure that you pay your final bill promptly. If you pay by direct debit or standing order, please make sure you cancel these arrangements once the final bill has been paid.
Your meter reading needs to be taken when you change supplier. Your new supplier will either arrange for your meter reading to be taken, or they may ask you to take the reading yourself. Details of the final reading will be sent from your new supplier to your old one, so that your previous supplier can send you a final bill.
Please keep a note of your meter reading on the date that you transfer supplier. You will need this information if you do not agree with your final bill.
If you do not pay your final bill promptly, the new supplier may be asked to add the outstanding amount to your next bill. You may also incur additional charges for late payment.
As long as you are not in debt with your existing supplier, they cannot prevent you from switching.
If you are changing supplier you will have to enter into a contract with the new supplier. The contract will specify the price you will pay and the terms and conditions of supply.
After signing up to a new energy supplier or new tariff, you are entitled to a ‘cooling off’ period of between 7 to 14 days. Each supplier has different periods and you will see this in the confirmation letter or email that you recieve from both us and the new supplier. During this period, you can cancel the contract without penalty. After the ‘cooling off’ period has lapsed, you will have to give the supplier notice of your intention to end the contract. The notice that you need to give will depend upon the type of contract you took. Most contracts require 28 days notice prior to termination.
There are two basic types of contract; rolling contracts or fixed term contracts.
A rolling contract (sometimes also called an evergreen contract) is one that carries on until you cancel it. During the period of the contract, the price of electricity can go up or down in accordance with the terms of the contract, unless the price was noted as being capped or fixed and in which case this will relate to the specified period. You can end this type of contract at any time on 28 days notice if you are moving to another supplier, or 2 days notice if you are moving house.
Since mid 2008 more and more rolling contracts have an early termination fee that is payable should you leave the particular tariff within a specified period. You will see this clearly marked with any information related to the tariff.
This contract is fixed for a given period, perhaps one or two years. If you terminate a fixed term contract early, you may be liable to pay an early termination fee. In most instances a supplier will only charge an early termination fee if you leave the tariff and move to another supplier or tariff. If you are moving home you will not have to pay an early termination fee.
The supplier must provide at least 10 days notice in writing to announce significant changes in the terms of contract. You will then have a further 14 days to decide and let your existing supplier know whether you intend to end your contract and switch to another supplier. If you do decide to move within this timeframe, you will continue to be billed for the energy you use at the old contract terms until such time as you transfer to your new supplier. You will not be liable for any cancellation fees.
If you are unhappy with any price increase, please come back to us to see if we can get you a better deal.
You need to give your supplier at least 2 days notice before you move. Your supplier will then arrange for a meter reading to be taken or, more likely, ask you to give them the meter reading. This will be used to calculate your final bill. If you do not tell your supplier that you are moving, you may be liable for the bill at your old address until the earlier of:
- 2 days after you notify your supplier that you have moved, or
the date that the meter at your old address is next read, or
the date the new occupiers enter into an agreement with a supplier for the supply of the old premises.
No. You need to give your existing supplier at least two days notice of your move. Other than that, you will not incur any penalties for early contract termination in these circumstances.
If you are planning to move, we can help. We’ll find you a new supplier at your new home. We will then ensure that your supply starts on the day that you move into the new property.
The Final Bill
The meter reading taken at the time you change supplier will be used to calculate the final bill from your previous supplier. The final bill will be adjusted to account for any under or overpayments due from previous estimated bills. The final bill will show the payments you have made, how much energy you have used and any balance outstanding.
If you feel you have been overcharged, you should contact your previous supplier and give them the meter reading from the day you changed supplier. It is up to your old supplier to resolve the issue with you. If you are unhappy with the response you get you should contact energywatch; who are in a position to investigate the matter further. The energywatch website address is www.energywatch.org.uk.
You should pay your final bill within 28 days. If you have difficulty paying it, your old supplier may agree that you can pay the bill in instalments. Alternatively, your new supplier may agree to let you transfer the balance onto your next new bill. Be aware that you may incur additional charges for late payment.
Your supplier must provide you with a 24-hour emergency number which you should call if you think there is a safety problem with your meter, the electricity cables, gas lines or other equipment running into your home. You should also call this number if you experience any energy cuts at your home.
Your supply company is not actually responsible for the wires, cables and pipes that supply energy into your home; this is the responsibility of the local distribution company. If you have a power cut which is not restored within 24 hours, then you are entitled to claim compensation.
The company responsible for all gas emergencies is Transco. Their national Freephone number for emergencies is 0800 111 999.
The Supply Number
A supply number, also referred to as “S” number, is a unique reference which identifies the electricity meter at your property. The Supply number contains information (i.e. meter type) required by your new supplier.
The supply number appears on your bill. In almost all cases each household will have only one supply number per meter.
The standard format for an electricity supply number is:
Image shows what the supply number looks like
The top line of the supply number contains information about whether you are a domestic or business consumer, and which tariff you are on. It will therefore change as you change your supply details.
The bottom line of the supply number contains information about the local electricity distribution company responsible for maintaining the cables and wires carrying electricity into your home, plus a unique reference number to identify the meter in your property. The bottom line of information will not change when you switch supplier.
Difficulty with Paying Your Bills
Under the terms of their supply license, suppliers must offer you help and advice if you have difficulties paying your bills. You should contact your supplier as soon as possible to discuss available options if you think that you may get into difficulties paying your bill.
Your supplier should discuss with you the best way to pay your bill. They should be able to provide you with the following services:
- Arranging a payment plan to clear the debt in instalments.
- Installing a pre-payment meter, if it is safe and practical to do so. Each time the meter is credited, a portion of the credit is used to pay off the debt.
- Accepting deductions from your social security benefits.
- Providing information about how you might be able to reduce your bills by using electricity more efficiently.
What happens if I can’t pay my bill? Could I be disconnected?
If you are in debt to a supplier, and you refuse to accept any arrangements your supplier puts forward to try and clear your debt, your household may be disconnected until such time as you make arrangements to clear your debt.
Energy suppliers have a commitment to avoid disconnecting customers who are elderly, disabled or chronically ill, during the winter months.
If you have difficulty paying your bills, and are unhappy with the way your supplier has handled your problems, you should contact the consumer watchdog Consumer Focus to see if they can provide any additional advice.
The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets – Ofgem – is the independent regulator of the two energy markets. New suppliers need to be authorised by Ofgem before they can supply you with gas and/or electricity. Ofgem will ensure that suppliers are able to supply sufficient energy to meet the demands of their customers.
Consumer Focus is the statutory organisation campaigning for a fair deal for consumers in England, Wales, Scotland, and, for postal services, Northern Ireland.
Advice for individuals on energy and post is given by Consumer Direct (08454 04 05 06).
They are the voice of the consumer, and work to secure a fair deal on your behalf. They were created through the merger of three consumer organisations – Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (including the Welsh and Scottish Consumer Councils). The new approach allows for more joined-up consumer advocacy, with a single organisation speaking with a powerful voice and able to more readily bring cross-sector expertise to issues of concern.
Their aims are set out in their Forward Work Plan and they’ve already made considerable progress towards the aims set out in it. They are also strengthening our relationships with our key partner organisations and individuals.
Consumer Focus has strong legislative powers. These include the right to investigate any consumer complaint if they are of wider interest, the right to open up information from providers, the power to conduct research and the ability to make an official super-complaint about failing services.
With around 170 employees, they aim to be the strongest advocacy body in the history of the UK consumer movement.
They are not an advice agency nor are they a statutory regulator. Other bodies such as Consumer Direct, Citizens Advice, local authority trading standards and the Office of Fair Trading play these roles.
It is a statutory body representing the interests of Gas Consumers in the UK. They offer free help and advice. They can be contacted on 020 7931 0977, or by post at Gas Consumers Council, Abford House, 15 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1LT.
They are groups representing the interests of electricity consumers in their local areas by providing help and advice to anyone who has a problem with their electricity company. In total there are 14 Committees spread across England, Scotland and Wales. Each has between 10 and 20 volunteer local members and a chairman.
Services for elderly, disabled and chronically sick customers
All energy suppliers are required, under the terms of their licenses, to produce and comply with a Code of Practice that sets out services for elderly, disabled and chronically ill customers. Suppliers must provide additional help to such disadvantaged customers on request. Ofgem is responsible for monitoring adherence to this code.
You can get special help if you are a domestic customer and either a pensioner, disabled or chronically ill. There are also special services for the blind and deaf. If you qualify for special assistance, we recommend you inform your supplier of your status.
Energy suppliers are required to keep a record of customers who are of pensionable age, disabled or chronically ill. If you qualify, it is in your interest to notify your supplier of your status. This information will allow your supplier to identify your special needs and give you special advice and assistance. For electricity, the supplier may, with your consent, pass this information onto the distribution company that maintains the cables, wires and pipes that supply energy to your home. This will enable the distribution company to notify you well in advance of a supply interruption.
If you qualify, you may be able to obtain special arrangements with respect to the use and positioning of your meter, additional security measures associated with identifying anyone working for the supplier who enters your home, and with respect to where your bills are sent. Suppliers are also required not to disconnect vulnerable customers, with outstanding bills, during the winter months.
Competition was introduced into the domestic energy markets in Great Britain in phases from April 1996 through to May 1999, initially for gas and then for electricity. All households in Great Britain are now free to choose their suppliers of electricity and gas.
Whether you want to switch suppliers or are looking for advice, sometimes it’s nice just to talk it through.
You can chat with us free of charge from Monday – Thursday, 9am till 8pm & Friday, 9am till 6pm.