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Protection if you cannot pay your bill
Condition 27 of the Standard Licence Conditions
If you are threatened with disconnection because you cannot pay your bill, SLC 27 gives you the following rights.
    You are entitled to a payment arrangement to repay your arrears at a rate you can afford.1Condition 27.6(a)(iii) and 27.8 SLC
    You can use, where available, a means by which payments may be deducted at source from a social security benefit such as Fuel Direct (see Chapter 11).2Condition 27.6(a)(i) SLC
    You may pay by regular instalments and through a means other than a prepayment meter.3Condition 27.6(a)(ii) SLC
    If you have not been able to manage a payment arrangement, you must be offered a prepayment meter (if safe and reasonably practicable) as an alternative to disconnection. The meter must be set to recover arrears at a realistic rate which you can afford.4Condition 27.6(a)(iii) and 27.8 SLC
    If you are a pensioner or have children under 18, you should receive protection from disconnection in winter (see below). If the supplier knows or has reason to believe you are such a customer, it must not disconnect you if you live alone or live with another pensioner or children under 18.5Condition 27.10 SLC This provision applies even where there is suspicion of theft of electricity.6Condition 12A 11(d) SLC
    If you are below pension age and your household includes persons who are of pensionable age, disabled or chronically sick, the supplier must take ‘all reasonable steps’ to avoid disconnecting your supply in winter.7Condition 27.11 SLC
    You should be offered information about how you can reduce your charges by using fuel more efficiently.8Condition 27.6(b). Also see 31.2(a) and (b) SLC.
‘Winter’ is defined as the months of October, November, December, January, February and March.9Condition 1 (Definitions) SLC
Suppliers are obliged to develop methods for dealing with customers in arrears under the terms of this condition. These set out the procedures which should be followed by each supplier and provide the practical mechanism for protecting your rights. Any departure from the methods may constitute a breach of your rights and could be referred to Ofgem for investigation.
Calculation of an instalment rate
Under SLC 27 a supplier must not disconnect you unless it has first taken all reasonable steps to arrange the repayment of outstanding charges. This means that your supplier must:
    ‘take all reasonable steps’ to discover your ability to pay and must take this into account when calculating instalments;10Condition 27.8 SLCand
    provide you with energy efficiency advice;11Condition 27.6(b) SLCand
    allow the following repayment methods:12Condition 27.5 and 27.6 SLC
      payment plan; or
      Fuel Direct scheme; or
      through a prepayment meter.
The supplier must also consider:
    relevant information provided by third parties - such as a social worker, a carer, physician, or health visitor - where it is available;13Condition 27.8(a) SLC and
    where instalments will be paid using a prepayment meter, the value of all of the charges that are to be recovered through that meter.14Condition 27.8(b) SLC
Suppliers should ensure that they properly and proactively take into account your ability to pay. Your supplier should also:15Condition 27.8A SLC
    have suitable credit management policies and guidelines;
    ensure that it actively communicates with you and establishes early intervention;
    understand your ability to pay;
    set repayment arrangements relative to your ability to pay and personal observed circumstances;
    ensure all available information is obtained and taken into account when setting repayment rates;
    only set default amounts when information about ability to pay is unavailable;
    set default amounts subject to change once information about ability to pay is made available;
    set reasonable default repayment rates;
    proactively explore payment amounts and payment methods which are appropriate to your individual circumstances;
    make you aware of debt advice services when in payment difficulty;
    ensure that you understand any new arrangement made, including the rate of payment, method of payment, length of plan or recovery period and action to take if you experience difficulties;
    monitor any arrangement made, including for credit payment arrangements, to check for the occurrence of failure and, for prepayment meter arrangements, to check whether the meter is being used initially and on an ongoing basis;
    monitor any arrangement made, including review of a failed payment arrangement, discussing alternative and suitable payment arrangements or methods of payment;
You should provide your supplier with a detailed financial statement (see here).
1     Condition 27.6(a)(iii) and 27.8 SLC »
2     Condition 27.6(a)(i) SLC »
3     Condition 27.6(a)(ii) SLC »
4     Condition 27.6(a)(iii) and 27.8 SLC »
5     Condition 27.10 SLC »
6     Condition 12A 11(d) SLC »
7     Condition 27.11 SLC »
8     Condition 27.6(b). Also see 31.2(a) and (b) SLC. »
9     Condition 1 (Definitions) SLC »
10     Condition 27.8 SLC »
11     Condition 27.6(b) SLC »
12     Condition 27.5 and 27.6 SLC »
13     Condition 27.8(a) SLC »
14     Condition 27.8(b) SLC »
15     Condition 27.8A SLC »