What happens if you don’t pay your energy bills?

Posted on 23 August 2022

We’re in a cost-of-living crisis. General goods are on the rise and global energy prices are at an all-time high.

You may be aware of campaigns encouraging people to not pay their energy bills from 1 October. While this may be something you feel compelled to do, it’s important that you to consider all the risks and consequences.

Risks of not paying your energy bills

Energy bills are a priority debt. Please consider what may happen if you stop paying:

    1. Cancelling your direct debit may result in higher bills. Paying your bills by direct debit is the cheapest way. If you cancel your direct debit, your supplier will send you bills at a higher rate. Moneysavingexpert.com founder Martin Lewis has said, it’s around 6% more than if you were to pay by direct debit.

    2. Your credit score will be harmed. If you get into arrears with your energy supplier, it will negatively impact your credit score.

    3. You may be moved to a prepay meter. Disconnections are rare, but your supplier is likely to move you to a prepay meter if you’re in debt with them. They can help you set up re-payment plans, but they’ll still expect ongoing energy bills to be paid.

Not paying your energy bill isn’t a criminal offence. You can’t go to prison for it. But being in debt can be very harmful to a person’s health and wellbeing.

Priority and non-priority debts

Non-priority debts include store cards, loans and credit cards. If you can’t afford to pay them, you should contact your lender to see if you can come to an arrangement. 

Priority debts have much higher consequences if you stop paying. For example, your rent is a priority debt because if you don’t pay it, and you don’t have an arrangement with your landlord, you’ll be at risk of losing your home. 

Avoid scams

Tampering with a meter for any reason is a criminal offence and you can go to prison. Don’t let anyone offer to do this, and don’t attempt this yourself.  

Don’t accept offers of devices that you plug in to reduce your energy consumption. These don’t work.

Where can I get help?

You can talk to your energy supplier to let them know that you can’t afford to pay. You may be eligible for a grant or other financial assistance. You can also talk to your local authority. Many councils have set up funds for people who are struggling.

And don’t forget that you can talk to us. We can help with money advice and support, and also offer advice around energy and employment.

This story is part of our Helping Hand initiative.