Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

The energy price crisis has now left millions of customers in the dark over repayments and threatening bills.

Four million households have lost their supplier since the price of gas began to rise sharply just three months ago.

But many have told Money Mail that they have heard nothing about getting credit balances repaid or what to pay soon.

Bulb, which had 1.7 million customers, became the largest bankrupt company this week – after more than 20 others.

About 4 million homes have lost their supplier since the price of gas began to rise two months ago

About 4 million homes have lost their supplier since the price of gas began to rise two months ago

And a Money Mail poll today reveals that two-thirds of households are now worried about how they can afford their energy bills this winter.

Six out of ten households told us they were still waiting for a refund after their company collapsed. And of those, a quarter have been waiting two months or more, according to the Consumer Intelligence survey.

Many find it difficult to contact their new supplier by phone or email.

Sarah Cooper, an entrepreneur for baby clothes from Surrey, was £ 460 in credit when her supplier, Green, went under in September.

Shell Energy accepts the company’s customers, but Sarah, 42, says she has heard nothing about her bills or credit.

She says: ‘We have been left in the lurch. It’s not a small amount of money and it could be really useful at this time of year. ‘

Sarah Cooper has heard nothing about her bills or credit since Green Energy went bankrupt

Sarah Cooper has heard nothing about her bills or credit since Green Energy went bankrupt

Former Avro Energy customer Suzanne Samaka from Watford is confused about where her bills stand now that Octopus has taken over her account.

The 33-year-old, who runs the youth mental health campaign Honesty about editing, says: ‘I also do not know if we are paying the right amount or if we will soon be landed with a huge bill.’

Cait Naven, whose provider Utility Point collapsed in September, is still waiting for its first bill from its new supplier, EDF.

The 24-year-old had £ 193.49 in credit in August and she continues to pay the monthly direct debit of £ 108.

Cait, who lives in Manchester, says: ‘I’m worried my bills will be super high.’

Regulator Ofgem is now seeking to place Bulb in a special administration. And with wholesale gas prices showing no signs of falling, experts warn that dozens more companies could go under.

Here we explain where you stand if you are trapped by the crisis …

What happens when they fail?

Regulator Ofgem will appoint a new provider to take over your account, so you do not have to worry about your power being cut off. This usually takes a few days and the new company should contact you about a week later.

However, if this company receives a large number of customers, the transfer may take months.

If you had requested to change company before your old supplier stopped trading, you would still need to move to your chosen company.

For Bulb customers, the process is a little different, as this is the first time such a large company has failed. So far, they will remain at the same rate until an administrator is appointed and finds out what to do.

Customers with prepay meters can continue to spend money loaded on their meter.

A new provider should prioritize sending them a new key if they need one to top up their account.

Cait Naven, whose provider collapsed in September, is waiting to be transferred to its new supplier

Cait Naven, whose utility Utility Point collapsed, is waiting to be transferred to EDF

Can I lose any money?

If you were previously locked into a fixed agreement, your bills are likely to increase. This is because your new company will move you to a standard variable interest rate.

These offers are protected by a price cap which is currently £ 1,277 per year for the average user.

But it’s still around £ 410 a year more expensive than the best fixed-price deals on offer six months ago, according to comparison site The Energy Shop.

What if I have built up credit?

Any credit you had with your old provider must be transferred to your new account.

If you owe a large amount, you should be able to request a refund from your new provider.

However, many customers complain that this can take months. If you were midway through a switch when your company went bankrupt, your balance should be transferred to your new supplier.

If something goes wrong, it is up to Ofgem’s designated provider to refund you. Any debt will also be transferred to your new account.

If my company folds, what can I do?

Take a meter reading as fast as you can. Write it down in a safe place, or take a picture on your phone so you have a journal in case of a dispute.

It is also a good idea to keep track of the latest bills and print copies if you can only see them online. In most cases, you should never cancel your direct debit; this is to ensure that any refunds can be paid into your account.

However, if your old provider continues to take cash once your new provider has started billing you, cancel them immediately.

Ask the new provider for a refund of the double payment.

The cheapest fixed rate on the market now costs the average household £ 1,650 a year

The cheapest fixed rate on the market now costs the average household £ 1,650 a year

Can I switch to a better deal?

As companies are prevented from charging customers at standard variable rates more than the price cap, many have raised fixed agreements.

In fact, the cheapest fixed rate on the market now costs the average household £ 1,650 a year – about £ 373 more than the price cap, according to The Energy Shop.

The comparison page has warned that the ceiling could rise as high as £ 1,751 in April to account for higher wholesale prices, so there is a small chance you could end up saving in the long run.

However, experts urge families to stay put until the market calms down and cheaper deals resurface.

Some companies have also been accused of refusing to accept new customers. But this is against Ofgem’s license rules.

Will my supplier be the next?

Smaller businesses have always had a greater risk of folding this winter, as they can not ‘hedge’ by buying gas and electricity well in advance.

Bulb’s collapse, however, suggests that no provider is infallible.

Revealing signs of a struggling provider include a sudden drop in customer service standards and long delays in repaying credit.

You can complain to the Energy Ombudsman if a problem has not been resolved after eight weeks. You can also switch to a new supplier before your business collapses.

But without cheap deals left, it’s almost certainly better to get stuck right now.

f.parker@moneymail.co.uk

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