Don’t Pay: Charity warning over energy bill campaign as 90,000 threaten to scrap direct debits

Suppliers could use debt collection agencies to retrieve missed or late payments, charities warn

Thomas Kingsley
Monday 08 August 2022 18:05 BST
Who are Don’t Pay UK and what do they do

UK charities have warned people of the serious consequences of refusing bill payments, as a campaign to stop payments draws closer to 100,000 signatures.

The Don’t Pay UK group, which is campaigning for a reduction of soaring energy bills, has gathered support from more than 91,000 people who plan to cancel their direct debit payments from 1 October.

The protest is designed to coincide with regulator Ofgem’s energy price cap rise, hiking bills for households across the country.

Analysts are forecasting that the typical customer is likely to pay £3,358 a year from October, up from £1,971 a year in April.

Are you planning on refusing to pay your energy bills as part of the campaign? If so email

Tony, a volunteer with Don't Pay, told BBC Radio 4 “the sums don't add up any more”, adding: “I am quite frightened what's going to happen this winter."

Tony said he had always paid his bills before and he understood that not paying came with risks, but argued that “the bigger risk is not to do anything at all”.

“If we don't act this winter, it could be the case that the prices go up even further, and if we let them get away with it, I think we're going to be forced into more poverty and have more money taken off us,” he said.

Debt charity Stepchange, however, warned there could be serious consequences for not paying bills such as suppliers enlisting debt collection agencies to retrieve funds.

Gas and electricity bills are classed as priority bills meaning there is a higher threshold of ramifications for missed or late payments, the charity added.

Gordon Brown has warned children will go hungry if more is not done to tackle the cost of living crisis (PA)

“Any arrears will be added to the meter and a set amount will be deducted each week. This means you must pay the arrears at a set weekly amount or lose the supply.

“Your supplier can also remove the meter and cut off your supply, but fortunately this is incredibly rare,” said Richard Lane, director of external affairs at Stepchange.

“If you’ve fallen behind with your household bills, and are worried about how you will pay, it’s important not to wait to get help. Contact your supplier to let them know you’re struggling, they may be able to offer support and inform you about any available grants to pay off a utility bill, or negotiate an affordable payment plan.”

Citizens Advice said there were some safeguards for customers, but they were still vulnerable to higher charges after a refusal to pay.

“Your supplier can’t make you move to prepayment if it wouldn’t be safe or practical; for instance, if an illness or disability means you’d be at risk if your gas or electricity was cut off. Your supplier also needs to follow clear guidance and make sure they’ve given you notice, given you time to pay any debts and offered you alternatives to being moved on to a prepayment meter.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown warned that there will be a “severe impact” on people if action is not taken now to address the cost of living crisis. He called for an emergency Cobra meeting to be held to tackle the growing issue.

“Ensure that we can get a cost of living help to people, because we've only seven weeks to go before 1 October,” he said.

“You've got to change the universal credit computer to enable it to make payments to people, and there's no doubt that people are going to go without food and they're going to go hungry and cold in October if we don't take action now.”

“So this is the time to take action, and that's why I'm saying that government ministers should be meeting with the two leadership candidates so that they can agree a package that could be implemented immediately.

“If not, parliament should be recalled to look at what is a national emergency and at the same time of course the special committee should be meeting to look at all these plans.

“You could be looking at a cap on energy prices, you could be doing what Norway does and say we'll pay 80 per cent of the increasing bills, or you could have better social security support.”

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