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6. Choosing how to pay
The legal provisions affecting your choice are broadly similar for both gas and electricity. An assessment is made of your creditworthiness and of your ability to pay for fuel in particular. If you cannot show creditworthiness in general, provisions relating to the requirement for security come into play. If you cannot show an ability to manage your gas/electricity account, both provisions relating to security and policies for debt management come into play. Note: an existing fuel debt is no longer an automatic bar to switching to a supplier who may offer a different type of payment method (see here).
A supplier can restrict the choices available to you if it can demonstrate that it is reasonable to regard you as not creditworthy, even though you may not necessarily be in arrears with your gas/electricity bill. If it is reasonable for the supplier to require some form of security from you, your choices are restricted so that you are not allowed to accrue charges in the same way as customers paying quarterly in arrears. Payment to the supplier is required at least monthly, and possibly fortnightly or weekly, under the terms of the various budget schemes available.
If you can show that a request for any kind of security from you is unreasonable (ie, you can prove your identity, show that you are creditworthy and have a good record of paying your gas/electricity bills on time, live in settled accommodation and are not in arrears with your bill), there is no reason for a supplier to attempt to restrict your choice of meter or method of payment. You should be allowed to pay using the method of your choice.
Payment in advance of receiving a supply, or prepayment, is at the other end of the scale. This method of payment is the ultimate in security for the suppliers. No money – no fuel.
A prepayment meter may be your only option if the supplier has established a right to disconnect your supply, if you are in arrears and you cannot manage a payment plan. Similarly, if the supplier can demonstrate that a requirement for security is reasonable, and you cannot pay a deposit or arrange an alternative form of security, such as direct debit, a prepayment meter is the only alternative to disconnection.