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What to do if you are struggling to pay your energy bills

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or get a bill you can’t afford, take steps to sort out the problem as soon as possible. If you don't pay your gas and electricity debts, you risk being cut off.

If you have other debts or money problems, get help to sort them out too.

This page explains what you should do if you’re having trouble paying your bills or are in debt to your supplier.

Contact your supplier

Contact your energy supplier as soon as you have a problem paying. Explain the situation and ask if you can come to an agreement about how to pay off your arrears.

Energy suppliers have to follow certain rules when dealing with customers who are in arrears with their bills. They should:

  • offer you a repayment plan based on what you can afford to pay
  • offer you a prepayment meter to help you budget
  • take steps to help you avoid self-disconnection if you are already using a prepayment meter

Work out what you can afford to pay

Do a budget listing all the income and outgoings for your household. Don’t agree to pay an amount you can’t afford.

Agree a payment plan

Your supplier will arrange a weekly, fortnightly or monthly payment plan. The amount you pay will include:

  • an estimated amount for the fuel you currently use
  • an amount for the arrears

Your supplier shouldn't try to get you to clear the arrears any faster than you can afford to.

If your supplier tries to make you pay an amount you can’t afford, they may be going against their licence conditions, and you can make a complaint about them.

To work out how much you can pay, use our budgeting tool.

If you can’t keep to the payment plan

If you can’t keep to the payment plan you’ve agreed with your supplier, they may decide to install a prepayment meter. This will allow you to pay a fixed amount off your arrears at the same time as paying for the fuel you're currently using. Your supplier must make sure they collect the arrears at a rate which takes into account your ability to pay, with a maximum of 40% taken off each time you top up until your arrears are paid off.

More information about prepayment meters

Other money worries?

If you have energy arrears you may also have other money worries. There's lots of information to help you sort out your money and debt problems in our Debt and money section.

You can also get help with your debts from an experienced money adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Find your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau

Next steps

Other useful information

Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP)

NISEP offers advice on energy efficiency and grants towards heating and insulation measures to people on a low income.You can download the list of 2018-19 schemes from the Utility Regulator’s website at

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