Personal Finance

Thousands of Britons miss out on £50m in energy bill help

Britons are missing out on up to £50 million in energy bill support as hundreds of thousands of vouchers go unclaimed.

About 380,000 vouchers giving energy customers money off their bills have not been claimed in both October and November, the BBC estimates.

The news comes and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said there would not be another energy support package after April.

He said there was not the "headroom" to spend more money on a new scheme.

The Energy Price Guarantee has kept typical bills at £2,500 a year but this will rise to £3,000 from April.

Discounts of about £66 a month were also given to energy customers for six months under the Energy Support Scheme. While this was automatically deducted from bills for people who paid by direct debit, those with prepayment meters for their gas and electricity have had to redeem vouchers they receive through the post or email.

The vouchers are taken to a PayPoint or Post Office branch to be transferred into credit for the meter.

But 19% of vouchers, equalling about 380,000 homes, were not redeemed before they expired on February 5.

Prepayment meters are generally used by the most vulnerable in society, with many being installed after struggling to pay bills. To make things worse, users must find the means to travel to a shop or use the internet to use their discount vouchers.

Dr Elizabeth Blakelock, an energy specialist at Citizens Advice, told the BBC: "What we need to see is for the energy companies to make it really easy for people to get in contact with them so that they can reissue those vouchers."

When does the Energy Price Guarantee end?

The Energy Price Guarantee protects gas and energy prices so the typical bill is capped at £2,500. This saves households about £900 a year on average.

The EPG will increase to £3,000 in April, meaning households will have to pay on average £500 more a year. This new cap will remain in place until April 2024.

The £2,500 cap was due to last for two years, but this was shortened in the 2022 Autumn Statement.

However, the £3,000 EPG is still better than being faced with the Ofgem energy price cap, which increased to £4,279 in January.

Mr Hunt is resisting pressure to announce more energy bill support in his Spring Statement in March.

He said last week: "We constantly keep the help we can give families under review.

"But if you're saying 'do I think we're going to have the headroom to make a major new initiative to help people?', I don't think the situation would have changed very significantly from the autumn statement, which was just three months ago."

He added: "We always look at what else we can do, but we also have to be responsible with public finances.

"At the same time as energy prices have come down, so too have our receipts from the windfall taxes. So we have to look at everything in the context of what is responsible for public finances, because if we don't, we'll just see interest rates go up and then everyone who has a mortgage up and down the country will face a different kind of cost."

What to do if your Energy Support Scheme voucher has expired

If your Energy Support Scheme voucher has passed its expiry date before it has been redeemed, it can still be cashed. Customers should contact their energy supplier and ask for their voucher to be reissued. They should check their contact details in case it was sent to the wrong place.

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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