Arrears more than six years old
Where arrears for fuel accrued more than six years ago, recovery is statute barred under the Limitation Act 1980, which imposes a six-year time limit on the recovery of contractual debts in law. The six years run from the date that the bill first fell due. Suppliers cannot issue legal proceedings after this date and it is a complete defence if they do. Despite this, this does not stop them from serving a demand for a bill or undertaking recovery action which is more than six years old. However, you are not under a legal obligation to pay if faced with a demand which relates to a debt more than six years old. If six years have passed, you should not admit nor acknowledge the arrears or debt to the supplier. You should not make any payment towards the sum. Where legal action has been commenced within the six-year period (eg, the supplier has taken court action against you and obtained a judgment), then it can enforce the judgment even after six years but will need to seek the permission of the court to do so, and the court would take into account any failure on its part to act promptly. Enforcement action is not subject to the limitations under the Limitation Act 1980. Also remember that since 1 May 2018, suppliers are prohibited from sending you a retrospective bill (back-bill), or otherwise recover, beyond 12 months.1Condition 21BA.1 SLC You can therefore formally challenge any back-bill issued by a supplier with an ultimate redress leading to an investigation by Ofgem for a supplier’s failure to adhere to its supplier licence conditions. This protection may not apply if you have behaved obstructively or unreasonably, preventing the supplier from accurately billing you. Complaint mechanisms are also available to you, such as complaining to the Energy Ombudsman. If the debt accrued under back-billing rules (see here), seek legal advice.
For fuel arrears in Scotland, statute-barred debts cease to exist after a period of five years, unless a decree has been issued by the court before the five-year limitation period. As with the Limitation Act 1980, creditors cannot issue legal action against you.