All domestic customers should be aware of their energy rights. We all rely on energy every day of our lives. Problems with your gas and electricity supply or energy contract can be incredibly stressful.
In this guide, we’ll explain your rights as a domestic energy consumer. We’ll look at the role of energy regulators and your rights in relation to your energy supplier.
What is Ofgem?
Ofgem is the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. Ofgem is the government regulator for the UK gas and electricity markets. It functions much like a watchdog for the energy market.
Ofgem ensures home energy prices don’t get too high and protect consumers from illegal selling techniques and mis-selling practices.
What is the role of Ofgem?
Most home energy consumers won’t have much to do with Ofgem directly. However, you will likely have heard of the name if you follow energy-related news.
Ofgem ensures that the energy market is fair and transparent and represents the interests of energy customers. This includes:
- Setting price caps for energy suppliers
- Publishing data to allow customers to analyse supplier performance
- Fining energy providers for non-compliance with government regulations
- Approving official Ombudsman for unresolved complaints with energy suppliers
Your energy switching rights
It’s important to be aware of your rights when switching. Ofgem have put rules in place to make the process of switching energy suppliers easier. Here, we answer some of the most common questions about switching home energy.
Can my supplier stop me from switching?
Your energy provider does not have the right to stop you from switching to a new supplier except:
- If you have a prepayment, Economy 7, or Economy 10 meter and you wish to switch to a tariff that does not support these meters.
- If you have an outstanding debt that has been owed for more than 28 days.
- If you live in rented accommodation and your landlord is responsible for your bills.
If none of these exceptions apply, you should not be denied the right to switch. If you are prevented from switching, you should contact your provider to make a complaint.
You should bear in mind that your contract may have an exit fee. So, if you want to switch suppliers early, you will need to pay this. We’d recommend factoring the cost of your exit fee into any savings you would make by switching.
Is switching energy suppliers worth it?
For most home energy customers, most definitely! Millions of households across the UK are overpaying for their home electricity and gas bills.
There is a perception that switching energy supplier can be difficult. Yet the process has become much simpler in recent years. Energy providers are required to work together to switch your energy supply. This makes the process fast, with very little admin for consumers.
Often, choosing who to switch to is the most difficult part of the process. There are now more than 50 energy suppliers in the UK offering domestic tariffs. This can leave some people daunted by the idea of finding the best deal.
That’s where Love Energy Savings can help. Our domestic energy comparison tool allows you to search thousands of home energy tariffs in just a few minutes. We’ll also manage your switch, completely free of charge. Our friendly experts will also be on hand to answer your questions if you need us. It couldn’t be simpler to reduce your household bills.
Do energy companies have to tell you if there is a cheaper tariff?
Energy suppliers are legally obligated to be transparent and tell customers which is the cheapest tariff for them.
However, energy companies are not obligated to inform you if there is a cheaper tariff available with another supplier. For this reason, it’s important for homeowners to regularly compare home energy prices.
Think you've been mis-sold an energy plan?
If you think your energy bill is wrong, or you have been mis-sold an energy tariff you should contact your energy supplier to make a complaint.
If you don’t get a response within 2 months, you can make a complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
Depending on the outcome of your complaint, you may be eligible for compensation.
Can you change your mind when switching suppliers?
If you start the process to switch energy supplier and change your mind, you can cancel your switch within 14 days. This is known as the ‘cooling-off’ period. This is legally binding on all energy providers and is regulated by Ofgem.
Your billing rights
Some of the most common energy questions relate to billing. It’s important to be aware of your rights when it comes to your energy bill. This can help you avoid any potential issues with payments further down the line.
How to pay gas or electricity bills
There are several ways of paying your home gas and electricity bills. The cheapest tariffs available are those paid by direct debit. This is usually every month or every 3 months. You can also pay for your energy on receipt of bill.
Another way to pay is by a prepayment meter. This works much like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone. Prepayment meters work by using a fob or card that you top-up with money. However, unit rates are often higher on prepayment meters.
What to do if the electricity and gas bill is not in your name
If you own your own home and your electricity bill is not in your name, you can contact your energy provider and ask them to transfer the bill to your name. If you have recently moved into your home, you should do this as soon as possible. You’ll also need to provide your supplier with your meter readings to ensure you only pay for the energy you use.
If you live in rented accommodation, check your tenancy agreement to see who is responsible for paying energy bills. If it is your landlord, the bills will be in their name and you will pay your landlord for the energy you use.
If you are responsible, you should contact your energy provider to have the bills put in your name and provide your meter readings.
Why is my electricity or gas bill so high?
There are several reasons why you may receive a high energy bill.
Firstly, you need to be aware of your energy usage. Many home energy customers will find that their bills rise during the winter months. Most households will be using more energy to heat their homes and have lights on for longer.
If you think you’ve been overcharged, you should ensure your bill is accurate. You also be clear if your bill is accurate. If you have a smart meter, your meter readings will be automatically sent to your energy provider. However, if you have a tradition meter, you will need to submit regular meter readings to avoid estimated bills.
Finally, some energy customers may receive a high bill because you are on an expensive energy tariff. Many UK households are overpaying for the energy they use. That is why we encourage everyone to regularly compare home energy prices. You can quickly discover how much you could save by switching energy suppliers.
If you energy usage has increased, you can take steps to reduce your bills. At Love Energy Savings, we’ve put together a home energy saving guide to help you lower your energy costs.
Can energy providers increase or decrease my monthly payments?
For customers who pay by direct debit, the initial direct debit amount is usually based on an estimate.
If you use more or less than what was initially estimated many suppliers will increase or decrease direct debit payments accordingly. Your energy provider should contact you to inform you of the change before it takes place.
If you are on a variable rate tariff, your unit rate can change at any time during your contract. If you switch to a fixed rate deal, your unit rate will remain the same. However, your energy costs will still depend on how much gas and electricity you use.
What happens if you can’t pay your energy bills?
If you find you cannot pay your energy bills you should immediately contact your energy supplier to inform them about your situation.
Once they know, providers will offer you a payment plan. This will assist you to pay in a way that is manageable for you. The aim of this is to avoid any debts increasing. You can negotiate with them and find a suitable arrangement.
If you are worried about paying your bills and need support, contact Citizens Advice.
Can an energy supplier switch off the supply to my home?
If you don’t pay your energy bill, after 28 days your energy supplier will contact you to inform you about your debt. They may mention the possibility that you could be disconnected.
Energy suppliers will usually offer a payment plan if you are unable to pay what you owe. You should contact your provider to discuss your options if this has not been offered.
Is anyone exempt from being disconnected?
Suppliers won’t disconnect you between 1 October and 31 March if you are:
- A pensioner living alone
- A pensioner living with children under five
The Big 6 energy providers have signed up to an agreement that commits them to not disconnecting you at any time if you have:
- A disability
- Long-term health problems
- Severe financial problems
- Young children living at home
Other suppliers may take your situation into account, but they’re not obliged to.
What to do if you receive incorrect meter readings
If you receive a bill from your home gas or electricity supplier with incorrect meter readings, you should inform them of the mistake immediately.
It is unusual for gas or electricity meters, including smart meters, to be faulty, but it can happen. You should contact your energy provider if you believe that to be the case.
They may arrange for your meter to be tested. You should find out whether there will be a cost before this takes place.
It can be difficult to discover if your meter is working correctly. The best course of action while the issue is being resolved is to take regular meter readings. Keep a record of the results as this information will help your energy provider determine the issue. An energy monitor will allow you to cross-check your usage and compare it with the meter readings.
If it is determined that you have been overcharged you will be eligible for a refund.
What happens if an energy supplier goes out of business?
If you hear your energy supplier has gone out of business don’t panic. It is quite rare for energy companies to close suddenly, but even when they do it should cause minimal disruption to customers.
It’s worth taking meter readings and noting what your current account balance is. But other than that, you will be informed of the process.
Will I lose power supply?
Your power supply will not be affected as Ofgem will appoint a new energy supplier for you. Once you’ve received confirmation of the change, you can change suppliers with no exit fees.
Will I pay more for my energy?
Ofgem will conduct a tender process to find a new supplier. They will aim to provide you with a tariff as close to your current deal as possible. However, your new tariff may be more expensive as it will be a ‘deemed contract’.
Remember there is no requirement for you to stay on this tariff. You can switch your supplier at any time.
I was in credit with my previous supplier…
If you were in credit with your previous supplier, you won’t lose that money. Your new supplier will contact you and inform you when you will be repaid any existing credit.
Power cut compensation
Compensation for power cuts will depend on:
- The duration of the outage
- Whether you were informed no less than 2 days before for an electricity outage
- Whether you were informed no less than 5 days before for a gas outage
It is worth noting that power cuts that affect more than one home are the responsibility of the electricity distribution network operator or gas transporter.
If you have an issue with your meter that causes your home to lose power, it is the responsibility of your energy supplier to repair it. You may be eligible for compensation from them if they do not send someone to assist you within 4 hours.
You will not be eligible for compensation if you accidentally damage the power supply to your home.
The amount of compensation you will receive from your gas transporter or an electric distribution network operator depends on several factors.
It is usually £75 for a day or less, with additional compensation available for longer periods. In most cases, you will need to contact the relevant distribution network operator to request compensation. This must be done within 3 months of the power cut occurring.
How to make a complaint
If you have an issue with your energy supplier or you’re worried about being disconnected, you should contact them to make a complaint. You can find an energy supplier’s contact details on their website.
If you don’t get a response within 2 months, you can make a complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
Want more advice from the experts at Love Energy Savings?
If you’re looking for more home energy advice from the experts at Love Energy Savings, you can browse our latest energy guides.