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Over 30% of British Gas prepay customers say they're still waiting for October and November energy bill help vouchers in MSE survey

Over 30% of British Gas prepay customers say they're still waiting for October and November energy bill help vouchers in MSE survey

More than one in five energy users on traditional prepayment meters say they're yet to receive EITHER of their £66 Government energy help vouchers for October and November, with customers of British Gas being the worst hit, according to a MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) survey of over 5,500 people.

31% of British Gas customers who responded to our investigative survey said they still hadn't got their October OR November voucher – more than any other firm. SSE and Scottish Power also scored poorly, with a fifth of their customers (23% and 20% respectively) saying they hadn't got either voucher.

All households in England, Scotland and Wales with a domestic electricity account are getting a non-repayable £400 grant to help with bills this winter, paid as £66 in October and November, then £67 from December to March. For those on traditional (non-smart) prepayment meters, this should be paid as vouchers that you have to redeem.

We'll be reporting our detailed findings to energy market regulator Ofgem and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. If you're currently struggling to pay for your energy, see our Energy bills help guide for the support you could get.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "This is simply not good enough from British Gas. The country's biggest energy provider is withholding crucial funds from many of the poorest in society, as we head into winter amidst an energy crisis. Scottish Power and SSE don't seem to be that much better either.

"Things need fixing and that must happen with a sense of urgency. The Government effectively subcontracted energy firms to provide an energy welfare payment, and these firms are failing in their duty to do it. Worse still, it's those on old school prepay meters – which are often installed in the homes of some of the most vulnerable – whose shoulders this falls on.

"We'll be sending our findings to the Secretary of State Grant Shapps and industry regulator Ofgem to try to get them to push firms to step up. Yet this does raise questions about using energy firms to distribute support in this way."

Hundreds of prepay customers say they still haven't got their October and November vouchers

MSE ran its survey between 24 November 2022 and 1 December 2022, and it was self-selecting – so those frustrated about missing vouchers are more likely to have responded. Yet even if the proportions are skewed as a result, the survey reveals a material number of people reporting missing vouchers.

Customers on traditional prepay reporting missing vouchers

Firm (total responses) Percentage who said they hadn't got their OCTOBER voucher Percentage who said they hadn't got their NOVEMBER voucher Percentage who said they hadn't got EITHER voucher
British Gas (1,455) 34% 40% 31%
SSE (630) 26% 28% 23%
Scottish Power (661) 24% 32% 20%
Boost (226) 26% 31% 19%
Octopus Energy (124) 19% 23% 18%
Utilita (228) 15% 23% 14%
EDF (641) 17% 20% 13%
E Gas & Electricity (114) 9% 15% 9%
E.on / E.on Next (833) 10% 14% 8%
Bulb (509) 6% 11% 5%
All firms (5,710) 23% 28% 20%

Firms ranked worst to best based on percentage of respondents who said they hadn't got either voucher. Table includes firms with 50+ respondents. "All firms" includes all energy companies, not just those with 50+ responses listed above.

'Fobbed off': Struggling prepay customers at their wits' end trying to get the vouchers they're due

Most of those responding to our survey say they've found it difficult to contact their energy firm about missing vouchers. And even when they do manage to get through on the phone, dozens report feeling "fobbed off" by their energy firm.

Here's a small selection of complaints from survey respondents:

One British Gas customer said... "I have contacted British Gas twice previously (via the live chat, involving several hours of queuing) and the issue has not been resolved. The first of these conversations seemed constructive – but did not result in me receiving the vouchers.

"The second conversation, two weeks later, just consisted of me being fobbed off. They just repeated generic lines like 'please rest assured you will get them this week' alongside 'I can't give a timescale for when you will get them' and 'we will pass this on to the specialist team'. They just say whatever to get you to end the chat."

An SSE customer said... "SSE have phone lines that are very busy. It takes over an hour and then they cut you off sometimes. They say to chat online but they can't help with prepayment meters [on the online chat] then they say to WhatsApp them but they can't help [there] either. I've called several times and spent hours on hold."

A Scottish Power customer said... "We have been told they have been credited to our bill. We have been told it is added to our smart meter. We have been told the vouchers have been sent out. We are on a prepayment meter so no bills, no smart meter and, after seven weeks, still no vouchers. It is impossible to get a straight answer or someone to actually answer the phone."

What to do if you haven't got your vouchers

All eligible prepay users should have received their first two £66 vouchers by now (and some will be getting their third). These will have been sent from your energy supplier by post, email or text message.

If you haven't got yours, here's what you can do:

  1. Make sure your supplier has your latest contact details. One reason you might not have got your voucher is that it was sent to an out of date phone number or email address. Here, prevention is better than cure. Make sure your energy supplier has your latest details to minimise the risk of delays with your future vouchers. You should be able to do this in your online account (if you have one) or by contacting your supplier directly.

  2. Ask your supplier to resend the voucher. If it was initially sent by post, ask your supplier if it can send it by email or text message instead. The Government says suppliers are required to make all reasonable efforts to ensure you get your discount.

  3. Already tried contacting your supplier? Next, raise a formal complaint. If you've already tried contacting your supplier but you're not getting anywhere, the next step is to raise an official complaint. You can do this directly with your supplier or using the free Resolver tool.

    If necessary, you can then take it to the Energy Ombudsman – but you can only do this once eight weeks have passed or if you receive a deadlock letter. The Energy Ombudsman is an independent body that handles disputes between consumers and energy firms.

What do the firms say?

British Gas told us it has issued all October and November vouchers. It says customers who haven't received them should get in touch and it will resolve any issues "as quickly as possible". A spokesperson added: "To ensure our customers can contact us for support and advice, we've recruited an additional 700 people over the summer. We don't always get everything right, but we are constantly looking at how we can do more."

A Scottish Power spokesperson said: "The vast majority of our customers are receiving their payments on time and as expected. There's a small number of customers who have struggled to get it within the timescale – this is mostly down to some data issues out of our control."

A spokesperson from Ovo, which owns SSE's home energy arm, said: "We encourage anyone who has not received their voucher to get in touch with us so we can help. We can also advise on support available via our £50m customer support package."

What does the Government say?

In a letter to energy firm chief executives published on 4 December 2022, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps, said it was "deeply concerning" that some customers had reported not getting their vouchers – particularly as these customers are often the most vulnerable.

He added that he will be asking firms this week to confirm the measures they have put in place to address the nondelivery of vouchers and to ensure their call centre staff are providing "clear and accurate information" to customers.

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