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The energy company won’t supply you without financial security

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

In some situations, the energy supplier might insist you have a guarantor or put down a deposit before they'll agree to supply you with gas or electricity. This might apply to you if you are a new customer and cannot provide proof of your identity, or if you have a poor payment record.

You may be asked to:

  • join a regular payment plan
  • agree to have a prepayment meter
  • provide a guarantor
  • put down a cash deposit.

This page explains your options if your energy supplier insists on suitable financial security, such as a guarantor or deposit, before it agrees to supply you.

If you’re asked to join a regular payment plan

With a regular payment plan, your annual energy use is estimated and you pay this amount by equal instalments throughout the year. It can be a useful budgeting tool, especially if you’re on a low income.  Some energy suppliers offer a discount to customers who pay their bills by direct debit, standing order, a fixed payment budget scheme or a flexible payments scheme.

If the energy company asks you to sign up to a regular payment plan, check the terms of the scheme carefully. For example, how are the payments are worked out and what will happen if you build up a credit or go into arrears?

If you want to pay by direct debit, an energy supplier may ask you to go through a credit check. You will need to give your permission for the check. Failing the credit check may have a negative impact on your credit score.

If you’re asked to have a prepayment meter

If you have a prepayment meter, it means you pay for your energy before you use it. This is normally done with a token, key or card that you can buy or top up. Pre-payment meters can be a useful budgeting tool if you’re on a low income and, they are not normally more expensive than other ways of paying.

If you’re not happy with having a prepayment meter and are confident you can pay your bills, ask whether the energy supplier will let you join a payment plan or put down a deposit instead. However, if you have a poor payment record, a prepayment meter may be your only option.

If you’re asked to name a guarantor

Your supplier may ask you for a guarantor. When you name a guarantor, the supplier will check whether their record of energy payments is satisfactory. The guarantor will be legally responsible for paying your energy bills if you don't pay. However, in practice, the supplier will only require the guarantor to pay the bill if you don't pay and cannot be traced.

The supplier will review the arrangement after one year. At that point, if you have paid your bills in full, a guarantor will no longer be necessary.

If you are unhappy with having a guarantor or you don’t have anyone prepared to act as your guarantor, ask if you can join a regular prepayment plan, go onto a prepayment meter or put down a deposit instead.

If you’re asked to put down a deposit

The supplier must only request a ‘reasonable’ amount as a deposit. If you believe that the amount of the deposit is unreasonable, take the matter up with the supplier. If you are still not satisfied, you can make a complaint.

The energy supplier will review the deposit after one year. If the bills have been paid in full, your deposit will be returned within two months of the end of the year.

If you’re not happy with the kind of financial security you’re being asked to put forward, ask your energy supplier if you can provide security in a different way. Bear in mind that if you have a poor payment record your options may be limited.

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