MSE News

Over half of people would opt out of Government's £200 energy 'loan-not-loan', finds MSE YouGov survey

Research commissioned by MoneySavingExpert.com shows the majority of Brits would opt out of the Government's new compulsory £200 energy scheme if given the choice, with MSE founder Martin Lewis calling on the Chancellor to scrap the 'loan-not-loan' scheme.

Fifty-seven per cent of those responsible for energy bills who took part in a nationally representative poll of 1,665 adults in Great Britain by YouGov said they would decline the cash for the scheme the Chancellor calls an 'energy rebate'.

The findings show that in every single category of age and income – including those receiving benefits – the majority would opt out. Just a quarter (26%) said they would actively take up the scheme if they had the choice. The rest weren't sure.

The results come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last week that all electricity bills – including prepayment – in England, Scotland and Wales would be reduced by a flat £200 in October. Then, from the following April, all electricity bills will be increased by a flat £40/year for five years.

The nature of the scheme means bill-payers cannot opt out – it will impact every electricity bill regardless of choice.

You can see the results of the survey here:

Imagine you had the choice to opt in or opt out of the scheme, would you choose to take part or not?

Answer Percentage of those asked (%) Percentage of those asked (%) (excluding those not responsible for energy bills)
I would choose to take part in the scheme 24% 26%
I would choose not to take part in the scheme 52% 57%
Don't know 16% 17%
Not applicable – I am not responsible for paying energy bills in my household 8% -

Survey respondents were given a description of the situation and asked: "The Government is going to address rising energy bills by giving every household a £200 reduction in their bill this year, then recouping the cost by adding £40 to energy bills for the following five years.

"This will apply to all residential customers. Imagine you had the choice to opt in or opt out of the scheme, would you choose to take part or not?"

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "I would ask the Chancellor to urgently rethink his energy bills £200 discount and clawback scheme. Bills are already sky-high, and on 1 April we now know most will rise by a previously unthinkable, and for many unaffordable, 54%. And sadly, when that ends in October, it currently looks possible the price cap will rise by another 20%. That will leave most people paying double what they were a year ago.

"With this scheme, the Chancellor is effectively taking a worrying gamble with people's finances. He is following the market's view that rates will finally start falling later this year, meaning the price cap will fall in April 2023. Therefore, he hopes the impact of this scheme will mean lower bills now and in the future as the extra costs then will be covered by the drop in bills. That is far from certain, especially with the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine. And crucially, if rates don't drop – or don't drop a lot – people will be left in a lose-lose situation, with far higher bills than now and an additional levy on top.

"Our poll plainly shows most people aren't willing to take this gamble. They don't want to be a part of it – yet it is unavoidable. The state forcing people to do something against their will that is potentially damaging to their finances isn't a good outcome. So, as I doubt it is technically possible to set up an opt-out scheme by October, in truth the best route for most is likely to scrap this scheme and come up with an alternative solution."

How the scheme works

There is much confusion about the scheme. While it feels like a loan, and the Chancellor called it a rebate, in fact it isn't either. Martin has coined it as a 'loan-not-loan', and explains why it's not a loan here:

"There are two elements to the loan-not-loan...

  • In about October 2022: EVERY ELECTRICITY BILL will be reduced by a flat £200. There is no choice – YOU CAN'T OPT OUT. Prepay users will get the money via their smart meter, voucher, cheque or similar.

    For those with small bills, the flat £200 will have a big impact; for those with big bills, a little one.

  • From April 2023: EVERY ELECTRICITY BILL will have a £40/year levy added to it, and that will happen for five years to effectively repay the initial discount. And in a reverse to October, for those with small bills, the flat £40 will have a bigger impact than for those with big bills."

Martin adds: "While many are calling this a loan, it isn't. It's automatic, not optional. It isn't linked to individuals or households or buildings, it's about bills. You have to take it if you pay for electricity this year. You have to pay extra for it if you pay for electricity in future. It's not regulated via the Financial Conduct Authority. It doesn't go on your credit file.

"It's an energy levy (like the green infrastructure levy added to bills). First there's a negative levy reducing bills, then a levy added to them. While for people whose home situation doesn't change it will feel like a £200 loan repaid at £40/year, for others there are bizarre outcomes, for example:

- LOSERS: Five people share a house in October then separate. They get one £200 discount off their bill. They then all move out and live alone. From the following April, all five of them will have bills £40/year higher. Similar for those moving out of parents' houses in the five years.

- WINNERS: Two singles live alone in October, then meet. They each get a £200/year discount, then move in together, so they've only one bill, and it'll just have one £40/year added."

What MoneySavers are saying about the £200 'loan-not-loan'

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!