Disability discrimination and energy suppliers
If you’re disabled, your energy supplier mustn’t discriminate against you. If you’ve been discriminated against you may be able to do something about it.
Read this page to find out more about unlawful disability discrimination by an energy supplier.
Have you experienced unlawful discrimination?
The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts.
Energy suppliers, like all service suppliers, have a duty not discriminate against you under the Act.
Are you protected against discrimination?
If you’re disabled you’re someone who’s protected under the Equality Act. So if you’re treated unfairly because of your disability, it could be unlawful discrimination.
Taking your disability into account
Under the Equality Act, energy suppliers must take your disability into account when dealing with you as a customer. This means they may have to change the way they do things so you’re not disadvantaged by your disability. Otherwise, it could be disability discrimination.
What counts as unlawful discrimination?
Energy suppliers must make reasonable adjustments if you're disadvantaged by something because of your disability. If they don’t do this it’s unlawful discrimination.
It may also be unlawful discrimination if an energy supplier treats you unfairly because of something connected to your disability - for example, if you can’t read small print or have difficulties communicating or understanding things.
This is called discrimination arising from a disability.
There are other types of unlawful disability discrimination, these are:
- direct discrimination
- indirect discrimination
The duty to make reasonable adjustments means energy suppliers must communicate with you in an appropriate way if you’re disabled. This could be by email, textphone, phone or letter depending on your needs.
In particular, they must provide their information in an accessible format - for example, large print or Braille if you need it. They must never ask you to pay for it.
If they don't do this and you suffer a disadvantage as a result, you may be able to complain about unlawful discrimination.
You’ve just been told by your energy supplier that you owe them £3,000 in arrears. You didn't know about it because they hadn’t sent you any information about it in Braille or even phoned you about it until now. This is despite the fact that you’d told them you're blind and need all your bills in Braille.
In this situation, you can complain about unlawful discrimination. The energy supplier's failed to make reasonable adjustments by not communicating with you in an appropriate way.
You can also complain about discrimination because of something connected to your disability as you've suffered a disadvantage because you can't read standard print.
Your energy supplier wants to install a prepayment meter
If you owe money to your energy supplier they might want to install a prepayment meter. This means you would pay for your electricity or gas in advance rather than after you use it.
Your disability could make a prepayment meter unsuitable for you because:
- your gas or electricity will stop if you don't put money on your meter - could this affect your health, for example if your heating is cut off?
- you might have to travel to a shop or post office to put more money on your meter - could you get there regularly and easily?
- you have to read your meter frequently to know how much money is left on it - would you be able to reach your meter and see its display clearly?
If your disability means a prepayment meter wouldn’t suit you, your energy supplier should agree a repayment plan with you instead. Otherwise you can complain that they’ve discriminated against you because they’ve failed to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.
You've just received a letter from your energy supplier saying you owe them £700 because of a mistake when reading your meter. They want to install a prepayment meter for you to pay back your debt.
You have a serious medical condition and any disruption to your electricity supply could harm your health.
Because of this, your energy supplier should make reasonable adjustments and let you pay back your debt in another way, so there’s no risk of your supply being cut off. If they don't, you could challenge their decision under the Equality Act.
If your energy supplier’s discriminated against you, you may be able to:
- complain to the supplier that you’ve been discriminated against contrary to the Equality Act
- make a discrimination claim in court against the supplier
- say you've been discriminated against, if the energy supplier is taking you to court about your arrears.
If you’re registered with the Priority Services Register
If you're disabled, you may be eligible for extra help offered by energy suppliers from the Priority Services Register.
If you're registered with the Priority Services Register but you're not receiving the services you should, you may be able to use the Equality Act to strenghten your complaint against the energy supplier. The Equality Act also means that the energy supplier may need to do more than what they offer under their services for vulnerable customers.
- Taking action about discrimination in goods and services
- What are the different types of discrimination?
- How to complain to your energy supplier
- Problems paying your energy bills
- Help if you're older, disabled or on a low income
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find more useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at