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Protection under the breathing space debt respite scheme
If you have entered into a breathing space standard debt respite scheme (valid for up to 60 days) or a mental health debt respite scheme (valid for the duration of the mental health crisis treatment and another 30 days after that), suppliers must cease any recovery or enforcement action for the breathing space debts. In essence, this means that suppliers cannot:1DRS Regs
    take steps to disconnect your gas or electricity supply (unless on grounds of theft or illegally);
    get or execute a warrant;
    start any action or legal proceedings;
    contact you about enforcement or recovery;
    take recovery action through a debt collection agency;
    take steps to switch you to a prepayment meter to take payments;
    take steps to collect payments through other means (such as deductions from a social security benefit);
    use a prepayment meter already installed to take payments, save for if you had agreed for the meter to be installed before the breathing space commenced.
A breathing space starts the day after it is registered and submitted on the online register. It therefore can be readily applied for to circumvent any attempts by suppliers to disconnect supply. During the intervening moratorium period, efforts should be made to negotiate a settlement of the arrears. This is because at the end of the debt respite scheme moratorium, suppliers can resume or commence legal proceedings against you for the arrears, including disconnection. If not strategically handled, it will serve only to delay disconnection and not avoid it. You can also only apply for a standard breathing space every 12 months and therefore any application must be made to ensure your maximum protection and benefit from your supplier.
Other situations where disconnection should not occur
Examples of when supply will not be disconnected include:
– if you agree and keep to a payment plan;
– if the debt is in the name of a past customer, such as an ex-partner or previous occupier, and you have made arrangements to take over the supply;
– if the debt relates to arrears from a previous property;
– if the debt is for something other than fuel consumption;
– if the supplier has not discussed and assessed with you other means by which you may pay off the arrears first – such as a payment plan or prepayment meter;2Condition 27.9 SLC
– if you have a genuine query or dispute about your bill and you have paid the part of it which you agree you owe;
– if the debt is due to a different supplier;
– if you have agreed to have a prepayment meter;
– if you have been adjudged bankrupt or a debt relief order has been approved and the debt relates to a period before the insolvency (but a supplier could insist on a prepayment meter or a security deposit paid as a condition of future supply);
– if you have entered into a standard or mental health debt respite scheme (including all enforcement and recovery related to the fuel arrears for the duration of the moratorium);
– you request to be placed on the Fuel Direct scheme;
– you have contacted social services for help (see here) – you must tell the supplier that you are doing this.
It may be useful to suggest these alternatives to disconnection as basis for negotiation with suppliers.
1     DRS Regs »
2     Condition 27.9 SLC »