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Energy firms move to help prepay customers unable to top up due to coronavirus – what to do if you need to self-isolate

Energy firms move to help prepay customers unable to top up due to coronavirus – what to do if you need to self-isolate

Energy firms are putting in place new measures to help prepayment customers unable to top up during the coronavirus pandemic. We've company-by-company info below, but plans include posting cards loaded with emergency credit to those unable to leave home as they need to self-isolate. 

Important: This is a fast-changing situation. The info below is the best we have currently, but we'll be updating this as we know more.

Regulator Ofgem has written to all suppliers, saying it expects them to "take proactive measures to support prepayment meter customers, including customers in vulnerable circumstances".

We also understand the Government is working with suppliers and the Citizens Advice charity to develop guidelines for energy companies, covering topping up prepayment meters, as well as options for those who could struggle to pay their bills if income reduces.

Ultimately, suppliers will deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, so the best thing you can do if you have to self-isolate or are struggling to pay your bill due to coronavirus is to contact your provider as soon as you can. Suppliers have asked customers to use email and online chat where possible, to keep phone lines open for the most vulnerable.

If you can't leave home to top up at your usual shop, Ofgem suggests you arrange for a trusted person to take your card and do it for you (try to have minimal contact with them), and leave your meter box unlocked if it's outside your home. And if you can afford it, and you're not self-isolating already, energy firms are encouraging people to try to top up a little more than usual each time to build up some credit.

We know that won't work for everyone, so we've details below on what each provider has committed to so far.

If you've a smart meter, things are much easier. Most suppliers have an app to which you can link your account to in order to top up. If your supplier doesn't have an app, you can still top up online or over the phone – your credit will be sent automatically to your meter.

See our Covid-19 Coronavirus Help guide for info on everything from travel insurance to sick pay rights.

What will energy suppliers do to help prepay customers?

We've contacted all prepayment suppliers – some firms have acted quickly, while others have been a little slower to confirm their plans. We'll update this table as we hear more.

Supplier What can it do? How to get help (1)
British Gas

Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

 

If you're in isolation and you think you'll use up your balance and emergency credit, contact British Gas and it has said it'll find a solution on a case-by-case basis. See its FAQs.

Call 0333 202 9802
EDF

EDF says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

 

EDF has advised people who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help you top up. Where this is not possible, it says it can deliver 'preloaded' cards and keys if you need to self-isolate – this balance will then be collected back at a "suitable rate" later.

Call 0333 200 5100
E.on

E.on says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home or send an engineer to top up your meter.

 

It says if your electricity meter falls below 50p of emergency credit, or you're off supply for gas, it can either send a card or key in the post, or it will send an engineer round to top up for you. However, it advises to top up a little extra or asking a trusted person to help in order to prepare for self-isolation. See its FAQs.

Call 0345 052 0000
Npower

Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

 

Npower has said it is taking steps to maintain essential services and support for customers. However, it says details are still being developed and urges anyone in self-isolation who is struggling to top up to get in contact with it as soon as possible.

Call 0800 073 3000
Scottish Power 

We've yet to hear back from Scottish Power – however, it has published guidance on its website.

 

Scottish Power has advised people who need to self-isolate to ask a friend, neighbour or family member to top up for them, and to add more credit to your meter than normal. 

Call 0800 027 0072

SSE  SSE is now owned by Ovo, which has told us it is working through its guidance now and will update us. Call 0345 026 2658
     
Bulb 

Bulb says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

 

Bulb has advised people who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help you top up. Where this is not possible, it says you can pay online and a preloaded card will be delivered. See its FAQ.

Call 0300 303 0635
Co-op Energy  Co-op is now run by Octopus Energy, which has told us it is working through its guidance and will update us. Call 0800 093 7547
E Energy We've yet to hear back from E Energy. Call 0333 103 9575
Green Network Energy Green Network Energy has told us it is currently working through its guidance to customers and will update us. Call 0800 520 0202
Green Star Energy  We've yet to hear back from Green Star Energy. Call 0800 012 4510
Omni Energy Omni Energy has said it doesn't have the facility to send out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

However, it says it's not needed. It advises those who can top up in advance to build up credit on the meter, or ask a family member or friend to take their key or card to the shop for you. It also says it has emergency credit to maintain supply.
Call 0113 457 3219
Ovo (2)  Ovo has told us it is currently working through its guidance to customers and will update us.  Call 0330 102 7517 
Robin Hood Energy (3) 

Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

 

It's advising customers to top up meters more than usual if you are able to, and has said that it will always provide an "emergency support function" for prepay users. It also told us it's working up a number of plans to help anyone struggling to pay or top up, which will be confirmed shortly. 

Call 0800 030 4567 
Utilita 

Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

 

However, Utilita's main focus is smart prepayment, which allows people to top up remotely. If you've a non-smart meter, it advises you to top up more than usual or ask a friend or family member to help. It also says it has called all its customers over the age of 80 and has advised them of how to top up. 

Call 0345 207 2000 
The Utility Warehouse The Utility Warehouse has told us it is currently working through its guidance to customers and will update us. Call 0333 777 0777
(1) Whether you're on a standard credit meter or a prepayment meter, energy suppliers are urging you to contact them via email or live chat first, where possible, with any non-urgent queries, to keep phone lines free for those with serious issues or in vulnerable situations. (2) Ovo prepayment customers are supplied under the brand 'Boost'. (3) Advice also covers anyone supplied by Angelic Energy, Beam Energy, Citizen Energy, Ebico, Fosse Energy, Great North Energy, The Leccy, RAM Energy, Southend Energy, White Rose Energy and Your Energy Sussex.

'If we have to isolate is there a contingency?'

MoneySavers used Twitter over the weekend to express concern about what would happen if they were unable to head out to their usual store to top up.

What about those on standard credit meters?

Ofgem has told suppliers they "should continue to identify vulnerable customers and work to ensure their needs are met." It says this includes "taking a proportionate approach to debt recovery and late payments where appropriate".

Providers told us they will look at issues related to coronavirus on a case-by-case basis, but many told us they'd consider pushing back bill due dates, offer alternative payment arrangements and remove debt charges for late payment. So if you are having issues, make sure you contact your supplier as soon as possible.

What does Ofgem say?

An Ofgem spokesperson said: "It is critical that customers remain on supply. We are working closely with the Government, Citizens Advice and energy suppliers to ensure consumers are protected.

"We have written to all suppliers to stress the importance of taking early steps to manage risks and support consumers, and have been engaging suppliers at senior levels. We expect suppliers to take proactive measures to support prepayment meter customers, including customers in vulnerable circumstances.

"If a customer is unable to top up their prepayment meter, they should contact their supplier immediately to discuss how they can be kept on supply. We understand suppliers are considering a number of measures to support consumers in this situation."