Prepayment meters and arrears
In theory, it should not be possible to get into arrears by using a prepayment meter. However, in practice, arrears may be transferred from a previous supplier when you switch supplier or they may be set on a prepayment meter if you accept a prepayment meter as an alternative to disconnection.
A problem associated with prepayment meters is that households may self-disconnect themselves simply by failing to top up the meter through lack of money or if standing charges build up over summer months. If you think this may happen to you, consider using one of the other methods of making payments such as the Fuel Direct scheme or ensure the debt deduction rate agreed is affordable to you. Standard Licence Condition 27A requires that suppliers provide appropriate emergency credit support in situations of self-disconnection or self-rationing of prepayment meters to ensure continuity of supply. Ensure that you provide your supplier with as much information as you can about your particular circumstances. If you feel that a prepayment meter is being imposed upon you, seek help from Citizens Advice consumer service.
If you have arrears from a previous supply, you may be faced with bills from both your current supplier and your previous supplier. In such a situation, you should pay for your current energy consumption first before paying any arrears to your former supplier, to avoid building up arrears on your ongoing account. Treat the arrears on your old account as a non-priority debt (see Chapter 7). If you have any disposable income after addressing your priority expenditure, such as rent, council tax and current fuel supply, negotiate an affordable repayment plan with your former supplier just as you would with any other unsecured creditor.