Can energy companies disconnect your supply? LBC's Daniel Barnett explains

5 February 2022, 17:10

Can energy companies disconnect your supply? LBC's Daniel Barnett explains
Can energy companies disconnect your supply? LBC's Daniel Barnett explains. Picture: LBC
Daniel Barnett

By Daniel Barnett

The Legal Hour's Daniel Barnett explains the rights that energy companies have to disconnect your supply if you don't pay your bills, as energy costs are set to rise in April by around £693 per year for a typical household.

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You have several rights to prevent your energy being disconnected. Having your energy cut off is rare. It's a last resort (and shouldn't happen if you're in dispute with your supplier about overcharging). Even if your bill is correct and you can't pay it, it's more likely that you'll be offered a solution like fitting a prepayment meter in your home, so you can't build up debt you can't manage.

The law on what energy companies must do is set out in the Standard Conditions of Energy Supply Licence issued under the Electricity Act 1989. I’ll refer to it as SLC in this article.

If you can't afford to pay for the energy you've used - if the bill is higher than normal for some legitimate reason - then talk to your supplier. SLC paragraph 27.5 requires your supplier to work with you to find the best way for you personally to manage your energy costs and any debt. This might involve setting up a repayment plan or, as I've said, getting a prepayment meter.

It's also worth noting that suppliers aren't allowed to disconnect you during the Winter if you're a pensioner, living alone or living with children under 18 (SLC para 27.10). As part of the Safety Net scheme by Energy UK, the six main energy suppliers in the UK have also agreed that you can't be disconnected at any time of year ‘for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity.'

If you can't come to an agreement to settle your debt, your energy supplier can apply to court for a warrant to enter your home and force you to have a prepayment meter, or even cut off your supply. The supplier has to send you a notice telling you they're applying to court. You should do everything you can to come to an agreement with your supplier before the court date. If you don't contact them, you should attend the court hearing, when, again, you can try to come to an agreement. If the court gives the supplier a warrant, your supplier should send you a notice in writing 7 days before coming to your home to cut you off. If your meter is outside of your property, they don't need a warrant, but most suppliers will get a warrant anyway.

Under Schedule 6 of the Electricity Act 1989, your supplier is allowed to disconnect your electricity if you haven’t made the relevant payments, but not if the bill is genuinely being disputed, and not unless they’ve given you 7 working days’ notice.

If you have a smart meter, you could be disconnected remotely, but first, your supplier must have contacted you to discuss options for settling your debt, and they must have visited your home to assess whether being disconnected is an option for you.

If there is a good reason not to disconnect your energy (for example, depending on the facts, if you have a disability), it might not be reasonable to disconnect you.