Fourteen energy retail companies have announced their collective commitment to go above and beyond current licensing conditions to help households struggling with energy bill debt this winter.
The ongoing affordability crisis has left millions of customers struggling to make ends meet, and with over £2.6 billion in energy debt nationwide, the energy sector is acutely aware of the financial pressures many people are facing.
The Winter 2023 Voluntary Debt Commitment, developed with Energy UK, Ofgem and Citizens Advice, means that energy suppliers are going further than existing regulatory obligations to provide better support to residential customers who are falling behind on their bills. The following domestic retail suppliers have signed up: British Gas, E, Ecotricity, EDF Energy, E.ON Next, Good Energy, Octopus, Ovo, Rebel Energy, Shell Energy Retail Limited, Scottish Power, So Energy, Utilita, Utility Warehouse.
The new commitments aim to provide immediate assistance to those in debt, as well as arming people with knowledge and resources to empower them to manage their energy bills more effectively. They include substantial pledges of additional financial support, training for frontline staff talking to callers with debt problems, proactively identifying customers struggling to pay bills, continued close working with debt charities and consumer bodies who can offer specialist advice and make referrals and steps to provide suitable solutions for customers in debt, and ensure they are treated fairly at all times.
In collaboration with Citizens Advice, the energy retail sector is also launching an industry-wide communications campaign to ensure people know what to do if they’re in debt. The campaign, “SPEAK, SEEK, SAVE,” advises:
- SPEAK to your energy supplier – they can help you with a payment plan and let you know what other support they may have on offer
- SEEK advice on managing debt – get advice from a debt charity or organisation such as Citizens Advice, StepChange or the National Debtline
- SAVE energy by making sure your home is energy efficient – simple changes such as checking central heating controls, or using appliances differently, can help avoid wasted energy
Daniel Portis, Deputy Director at Energy UK said:
“Our industry recognises the challenges many customers are facing, and suppliers that serve homes across the country have invested in different ways to support them. These new commitments, in conjunction with the ‘SPEAK, SEEK, SAVE’ campaign, are a further step in our collaborative efforts to help customers struggling financially.”
The energy retail sector is providing millions of pounds in discretionary financial support this year, and since the crisis began has taken action to support customers including partnering with debt advice charities, implementing new data-driven systems to help better identify vulnerable customers and giving away free electric blankets. However, customer debt and arrears in energy is double the level it was at the start of 2020.
Energy UK is warning that without additional Government support, millions of people will struggle to pay for their energy this winter. It is calling on the Government to urgently commit to targeted financial support for households on means-tested and disability benefits.
Commenting further, Portis said:
“We cannot solve this on our own. Even with every support option that suppliers have to offer, there is potential for many customers to struggle to pay for their energy. That is why we are urging Government to deliver on its promised consultation on enduring support, like a social tariff, and urgently step in with targeted support for those who will need it most this winter – suppliers stand ready to deliver this to customers at pace.”
The Winter 2023 Voluntary Commitment
Additional support from retail energy suppliers
Full messaging for the Speak, Seek, Save campaign copied below, and available on Citizens Advice website.
Speak. Seek. Save.
If you’re behind on your energy bills you should:
Speak to your energy supplier
- Your supplier has to help you and negotiate a payment plan that works for both of you
- When making a payment plan your supplier has to take into account how much you can afford to pay and how much energy you’ll use in future. You’ll pay in fixed amounts towards the debt you owe over a set period of time
- Get help from the Citizens Advice consumer service if you can’t come to an agreement with your supplier about repaying your debt
Seek advice on managing debt
- Get advice from a charity or organisation to help you manage your debt
- Energy bill debt is classed as a priority debt so you should get advice as soon as you can
- A debt charity will help you with long-term strategies to reduce debt
- Not all debt advice is trustworthy. Use the StepChange checklist to make sure you’re getting advice you can trust
Save energy by making sure your home is energy efficient
- There are simple changes you can make around your home to be more energy efficient, such as checking your central heating controls or using your appliances differently
- You might also be able to get help towards the cost of making bigger energy efficiency changes around your home such as getting a new heating system
- You should make sure you keep your home warm enough so there’s less risk of your home becoming damp and you getting ill and make sure you keep essential appliances such as your fridge switched on
Useful links for consumers
- National providers of free debt advice include Citizens Advice, StepChange and the National Debtline
- If you are in Scotland, Advice Direct Scotland provides free and practical advice.
- Citizens Advice consumer service
- Citizens Advice energy advice
- Get help towards the cost of energy efficiency
- StepChange checklist for debt advice
- Find ways to save energy in your home
- The National Debtline
Notes to editors
- Energy UK is the trade association for the energy industry with over 100 members – from established FTSE 100 companies right through to new, growing suppliers, generators and service providers across energy, transport, heat and technology. Our members deliver nearly 80% of the UK’s power generation and over 95% of the energy supply for 28 million UK homes as well as businesses. The sector invests £13 billion annually and delivers nearly £30 billion in gross value – on top of the nearly £100bn in economic activity through its supply chain and interaction with other sectors. The energy industry is key to delivering growth and plans to invest £100 billion over the course of this decade in new energy sources. The energy sector supports 700,000 jobs in every corner of the country. Energy UK plays a key role in ensuring we attract and retain a diverse workforce. In addition to our Young Energy Professionals Forum, which has over 2,000 members representing over 350 organisations, we are a founding member of TIDE, an industry-wide taskforce to tackle Inclusion and Diversity across energy.
 Ofgem, figure relates to debt and arrears over 90 days