Why is this important?
You can’t switch energy supplier because of a debt
Energy companies can refuse to allow you to switch to another supplier if you have an outstanding debt. If you owe money, you may not be accepted by a new supplier. Whether or not you are allowed to switch will depend on:
- how long you have owed the money
- what kind of meter you have.
This page explains what you should do if your request to switch to a new gas or electricity supplier has been refused because you owe your current supplier money.
If you have a prepayment meter, you will only be able to switch to another prepayment tariff. If you want to have a better choice of tariffs, you can ask your supplier to change your prepayment meter for a standard credit meter.
Energy companies have different policies and processes for switching meters. Some will replace your prepayment meter with a credit meter for free, providing you pass a credit check, but others will charge you. Check with your supplier to find out what their policy is.
How long have you owed the money?
Whether or not you are allowed to switch will depend on how long you have owed the money. If you've owed it for:
- less than 28 days, for example, you haven't paid a recent bill, you will still be able to change supplier. The money you owe will be transferred to your new supplier
- more than 28 days, you may be stopped from switching, depending on what kind of meter you have.
What kind of meter do you have?
The rules on whether you can switch when you owe money to your energy supplier will depend on what kind of meter you have.
If you have a prepayment meter
If you have a pre-payment meter, you can switch energy suppliers and transfer debts of up to £500 for gas and of up to £500 for electricity. This is known as the Debt Assignment Protocol. You will have to carry on using the prepayment meter with your new supplier at least until your debt is paid off. However, you may be able to shop around for a cheaper tariff by asking for a meter change once your debt is paid.
Top tipsYou may also not be able to switch your energy supplier if you have a special meter or tariff that other suppliers can’t support.
If you are not on a prepayment meter
If you do not have a pre-payment meter and you owe money to an energy supplier, they can stop you from switching to another supplier until your debt is paid off. This is known as being debt-blocked.
Are you in debt because your supplier made a mistake?
If it is your energy supplier’s fault that you are in debt, maybe because they read your meter wrongly, they cannot stop you from switching to another supplier. However, you will still have to pay back any debt.
Has your supplier raised its prices?
If your supplier raises their prices then refuses to allow you to change supplier because of an outstanding debt, you have 30 days to pay the outstanding amount.
If you do so within this period, you can then change supplier without having to pay the increased price.
How to pay off a debt
You can either pay off a debt in one payment or agree to an affordable payment plan.
If your energy supplier has blocked your request to switch to another supplier, they must give you advice on:
- energy efficiency
- managing debt
- the best tariff for you.
Other useful information
The Debt Assignment Protocol - Frequently Asked Questions from Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry.
- More help if you’re having problems paying your energy bills.
- Help and advice on other problems switching energy supplier.
- If you need more help