Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your energy supply

1

Overview

COVID-19 is a new illness caused by the coronavirus that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s a national issue and the government is leading the response to it. All official government advice is available at www.gov.uk/coronavirus. You can watch British Sign Language versions of government advice on the SignHealth website. For health information, please visit the NHS coronavirus pages.

 

Here you can find advice and answers to questions you may have on managing your energy supply during the outbreak. We will continue to update this information.

Please be aware you may experience longer call waiting times than normal when contacting supplier and support helplines due to high volumes of customers trying to get through and/or staff shortages because of the coronavirus. Please try online options where you are able to such as via their website, app, email or social media. This will help leave phone lines free for emergencies.

2

Advice for households

Affordability issues

What should I do if I am struggling to pay my bills?

Information on the employment and financial support announced by the government on 20 March is available on GOV.UK. This includes the Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and your rights if your hours are cut or you are laid off.  

If you think you can’t afford to pay for any extra gas or electricity used because you’re having to self-isolate at home, support will be available through your energy supplier. Your supplier must take into account how much you can afford, and will explain your options. 

The government has also launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are struggling with money problems or are repaying a debt, options will include:

  • reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
  • payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
  • giving you greater time to pay
  • in some cases access to hardship funds

No credit meters will be disconnected during the outbreak.

For further general advice on household energy bill support, see our guide Who to contact if it’s difficult paying bills

If you are a business finding it hard to pay your bills, the government has published advice on support for businesses, including available grants. See also, the Citizens Advice Small Business Guide and advice from the Financial Conduct Authority.

If you have a non-urgent question for your supplier, please first check their online and mobile advice if you are able to - most are regularly updating supporting information and frequently asked questions on their services and the coronavirus national emergency through these channels as well as via contact centres. This will help keep phone lines available for people who need help most, particularly people in vulnerable situations.  

Energy supply

Could coronavirus impact my energy supply?

No. Your energy supply won’t be disrupted, and all suppliers and network companies are still working to the same rules and obligations we have put in place.

We expect energy suppliers to continue delivering good customer service and consider how best to respond to customers, particularly vulnerable people, in a timely manner while following the government advice.

We are in constant contact with government, industry and consumer groups so we can act to protect you if any problems arise.

Energy issues and home visits

What should I do if I have an energy problem? (e.g. power cut, gas leak or energy meter problem)

Contact your supplier straightaway if you have an energy problem, such as a gas leak or faulty meter. Tell them if you are unwell or self-isolating.

Suppliers and network companies are putting in place plans and emergency response measures to deal with safety-critical home visits if they are needed. They are monitoring and following government guidance, and will take timely decisions on how best to protect customers and staff while delivering their services.

If you have a non-urgent energy issue, please first check your supplier's online and mobile advice if you are able to. Most are regularly updating supporting service information and frequently asked questions relating to the coronavirus national emergency through these channels, as well as via their contact centres. This will help keep phone lines available for people who need help most, particularly people in vulnerable situations. 

If you experience a power cut:

  • Telephone: 105 (a free phone number)
  • Visit powercut105.com
  • If there’s a serious immediate emergency risk, call the emergency services too.

If you or someone you know is vulnerable, of pensionable age, has children under 5, a disability or long-term medical condition it’s important to let your energy supplier know. Each energy supplier keeps a Priority Services Register of people who may need additional assistance such as in a power cut or in dealing with supplier representatives. It’s free to be added to the list. 

Contact the Citizens Advice Helpline if you need additional help with an energy problem - for example with your bills or meters. Go to citizensadvice.org.uk/energy or call them on 0808 223 1133. Calls are free.  If you need more support if you feel overwhelmed, or are unable to deal with your supplier on your own because of personal circumstances, they may also be able to refer you to their Extra Help Unit. Learn more at https://ehu.org.uk.

We expect suppliers to have the safety, health and wellbeing of their customers as their central priority with a particular focus on risks to vulnerable customers or where customers are at risk of going off supply or have gone off supply. If you are concerned or worried about the actions of your supplier or network company, contact them to explain the issue straightaway. Many have set up special consumer response teams to support customers during this period of uncertainty.

What should I do if a supplier or network company needs to access my property and I am self-isolating?

If a supplier or network company contacts you to visit your property, tell them if you are unwell or are self-isolating. If you are concerned or worried about the actions of a supplier or network company, contact them to explain the issue straightaway. Many have set up special consumer response teams to support customers during this period of uncertainty.

Suppliers and network companies are putting in place plans and alternative arrangements to deal with routine activities, such as meter readings at homes where occupants are self-isolating.

If your meter is outside, it may be helpful for you to leave your meter box unlocked if it's safe to do so.

Suppliers and network companies must monitor and respond to government guidance on self-isolation and health and safety, and take timely decisions on how best to protect customers and staff while delivering their services. We expect them to have the safety, health and wellbeing of their customers as their central priority with a particular focus on risks to vulnerable customers or where customers are at risk of going off supply or have gone off supply.

If you or someone you know is vulnerable, of pensionable age, has children under 5, a disability or long-term medical condition it’s important to let your energy supplier know. Each energy supplier keeps a Priority Services Register of people who may need additional assistance such as password security to help you identify supplier representatives. It’s free to be added to the list. 

Contact the Citizens Advice Helpline if you need additional help with an energy problem. Go to Citizensadvice.org.uk/energy or call them on 0808 223 1133. Calls are free. 

If you need more support if you feel overwhelmed, or are unable to deal with your supplier on your own because of personal circumstances, the Citizens Advice Helpline may also be able to refer you to their Extra Help Unit. Learn more at: https://ehu.org.uk.

Are smart meters still being installed?

Under the current government advice, most suppliers have decided to carry out only emergency metering work. We expect suppliers to monitor government guidance and adapt their approach as circumstances change.

We have issued guidance on the minimum steps that suppliers should be taking to protect customers and staff. For example:

  • Ahead of a smart meter installation visit, your supplier should contact you and establish if there are any people in the household who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection (e.g. those aged over 70 or with underlying health conditions) or if your household is self-isolating in line with government guidance.
  • If yes, unless an emergency meter exchange is required to keep you on supply, we advise that the installation visit should not go ahead. Emergency metering work should still proceed.
  • All installers should follow official guidance via Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland, and Public Health Wales, such as avoiding close contact with you and washing their hands regularly. 

If you become unwell or are self-isolating, contact your supplier to tell them. You can postpone or rearrange your installation appointment if you want to.

Prepayment customers

How can I top up my prepayment meter if I am self-isolating?

You should tell your supplier straightaway if you can’t top up your meter. This includes if you are ill with coronavirus or following guidance to stay at home and self-isolate, and if you don’t have anyone to help you.

The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. 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
  • having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent to you in the post.

No credit meters, where you pay for your energy after you have used it, will be disconnected during the outbreak.

Suppliers must tell you:

  • what customer service support is available, particularly if you are vulnerable
  • how you are supported if you can’t top up or could go off supply. 

If your meter is outside, it may be helpful for you to leave your meter box unlocked if it's safe to do so, and if you need someone else to top it up. You may also want to arrange for a trusted person to take your top-up card to the shop if needed.

If your local top up shop closes, Paypoint.com and Payzone.co.uk list alternative vendors online, and the Post Office also provide top ups for some suppliers. Your supplier can also help.

If you have a non-urgent question for your energy supplier, please first check their online and mobile advice if you are able to. Most are regularly updating supporting service information and frequently asked questions relating to the coronavirus national emergency through these channels, as well as via contact centres. This will help keep phone lines available for people who need help most, particularly people in vulnerable situations. 

If you are a smart meter customer, you should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.

Citizens Advice has published more detailed online advice for prepayment customers. You can also their helpline on 0808 223 1133. Calls are free. If you feel overwhelmed, or are unable to deal with your supplier on your own because of personal circumstances, the helpline may also be able to refer you to the Citizens Advice Extra Help Unit. Learn more at: https://ehu.org.uk.

3

Advice for businesses

What support is available to me? What should I do if I am struggling to pay my bills?

If you are a business finding it hard to pay your bills, the government has published a guide on financial support for businesses during coronavirus.

This includes:

  • Loans, tax relief and cash grants, including a new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • The right to apply for staff to get up to 80% of pay if they can’t work
  • Grants of up to £2,500 per month, for at least 3 months, for the self-employed who are unable to work
  • Statutory Sick Pay refunds

The GOV.UK website also contains a more comprehensive guide to support for businesses.

Further advice is available in the Citizens Advice Small Business Guide and information for firms from the Financial Conduct Authority.

If you’ve been told you will be disconnected, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline. Further information is available in their small business energy guide.

Should I stop my direct debit payments?

You should discuss payment difficulties with your supplier in the first instance. Cancelling a Direct Debit with your supplier may incur penalties and extra costs to your business.

Can I suspend my bills?

Discuss your circumstances with your supplier to understand the options available to you with them in the first instance.

If you are struggling with your bills, make use of the guidance and support available on the GOV.UK website, especially the section on financial support for businesses during coronavirus.

You may also want to check if switching tariff or energy supplier will help you pay less for your energy, including standing charges. See our business energy switching guide.

Do I have to continue paying my standing charge even while my business is closed?

Yes, but speak to your supplier to see if you can reach an agreement with them during the current crisis that accounts for your premises closure. 

You may also want to check if switching tariff or energy supplier will help you pay less for your energy, including standing charges. See our business energy switching guide.

Can I ask to be disconnected?

Disconnecting your supply will incur cost, as will reconnecting supply in future. You should discuss your circumstances with your supplier and make use of the guidance and support available on the GOV.UK website, especially the section on financial support for businesses during coronavirus.

How can I save on my energy bills while the business premises is closed?

You can find information on energy efficiency generally, which may be applicable during this period, from a range of sources including your supplier’s website and your business trade associations.

You may also want to check if switching tariff or energy supplier will help you pay less for your energy. See our business energy switching guide.

4

Further advice and helplines

I’m not sure who my supplier is. Who should I contact?

You can find out who your gas or electricity supplier is and their contact details on a recent energy bill or on a supplier's website.

If you’re still not sure, use the services in our guide Who is my gas or electricity supplier?

Protect yourself from scams

Make sure you only use trusted sources of information about coronavirus. A scam may take many forms including online guidance, text messages and insurance or compensation policies.

The government is leading the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. All official government advice is available at www.gov.uk/coronavirus. You can watch British Sign Language versions of government advice on the SignHealth website.

For official health information, visit the NHS coronavirus pages.

If you receive contact, calls or emails about coronavirus from someone you don't know, don't accept, click on any links or buy anything. 

For further information on protecting yourself from scams and how to look out for them, see the Citizens Advice guide Check if something might be a scam. If you suspect a scam, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Help from Citizens Advice

If after contacting your supplier you need further help, use the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.

If you need more support if you feel overwhelmed, or are unable to deal with your supplier on your own because of personal circumstances, the Citizens Advice Helpline may also be able to refer you to their Extra Help Unit. Learn more at: https://ehu.org.uk

What is Ofgem doing?

We’re working closely with government to ensure the energy industry is taking all the necessary steps to serve the needs of customers, particularly people in vulnerable situations and people who may need to self-isolate at home. 

Energy suppliers and network companies have plans in place to continue to provide energy. They are expected to closely monitor and follow government guidance, and will take timely decisions on how best to protect customers and staff, while delivering their services. The government has also launched an emergency package of measures with energy suppliers to ensure vulnerable people don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting their homes during the coronavirus outbreak. 

We are in constant contact with government, industry and consumer groups so we can act to protect you if any problems arise. If you have questions about your own situation, contact your energy supplier in the first instance. You can find their details on a recent bill or their website, or use the services in our guide Who is my gas or electricity supplier? 

If you or someone you know is vulnerable, of pensionable age, has children under 5, a disability or long-term medical condition it’s important to let your energy supplier know. Each energy supplier keeps a Priority Services Register of people who may need additional assistance. It’s free to be added to the list. 

If you are concerned about what the coronavirus means for you, there’s more advice on the Citizens Advice website.

Publications and updates

  • Published: 5th May 2020
  • Charts and data
  • 1 Associated documents
A report summarising the findings from a poll exploring domestic energy consumers’ experiences with energy and managing bills during the first month of social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

  • Published: 27th Mar 2020
  • News and blogs
  • 0 Associated documents
An update from Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley.