Warning over cancelling energy direct debits this winter as it could cost customers up to £248 MORE | The Sun

HOUSEHOLDS are being urged to ignore advice to cancel energy bill direct debits or risk paying MORE this winter.

Energy bills are set to soar and many worried customers are threatening not to pay their bills as they struggle to cope.

A "Don't Pay" campaign calling on people not to pay their energy bills in October has received the support of more than 100,000 people.

If you don't pay your bill, there are serious consequences including debt collectors, marks on your credit score, and the risk of being shifted on to a prepayment meter.

But households are being warned not to cancel their direct debits either.

Jonathan Chesterman, policy manager at debt charity StepChange, said: "Direct debit is the cheapest way to pay for gas and electricity – if cancel your direct debit for energy bills, it may cost you more and your energy supplier will send you bills at a higher rate."

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"Understandably people are worried about how they will afford their energy bills as they have risen to unprecedented levels this year and are set to rise even further this winter. "

Some people are considering stopping their automatic monthly payment to give them more control over their outgoings.

But doing so could mean you end up paying more.

When you set up a direct debit for your energy bill, you pay a set monthly amount which is automatically paid from your bank account to your supplier on a set day of the month.

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The amount is set by your provider, which will calculate your annual usage and divide this by 12.

This means you pay for more energy than you're using in the summer, and less than you're actually using in the winter.

The alternative is to get a bill sent to you each month and pay after you've received that.

But those who pay by direct debit will often get a discount, and it could save you hundreds.

The discount is automatic and most suppliers will add a line to your bill to say it has been applied.

British Gas said its customers can save up to 7% on their bill if they choose to pay by direct debit.

On the average annual bill of £1,971 – that's a saving of £140.

If energy bills go up to £3,554 this winter, as is expected, that could mean a saving of £248.78.

Here is a list of the suppliers we know offer a direct debit discount:

  • British Gas – 7%
  • Utilita 6%
  • Shell – up to £48 per fuel type per year
  • Good Energy – £15 per fuel type per year
  • Ovo (discount level not known)

If you don't already pay by direct debit, you can easily switch to paying in this way – speak to your provider.

Not all firms offer a discount though, so if you are doing it to save money it's worth checking first.

Octopus, Bulb and So Energy do not offer a discount for direct debit customers.

The Sun has asked EDF, E.on, Ecotricity and Scottish Power if they provide a discount.

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Chesterman said: "If you have fallen behind with your payments, it’s important to contact your supplier and let them know you’re struggling.

"You may be able to negotiate an affordable payment plan, and they can tell you if there are any support grants available to help you pay off a utility bill.”

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