The Consumer Lawyer

Debt collectors and energy bills – Your rights

Person Holding Past Due Bill Envelope

With energy prices spiralling out of control, the last thing anyone needs right now is to receive a letter from a debt collector chasing payment for a historical energy debt. I’ve had a flurry of calls on the LBC Consumer Hour and letters from Sunday People readers telling me they have received such a letter.

Graham from Kent told me that he received a letter from a debt collector claiming that he owed £252 to his previous electricity provider for the period 2019-2020. Graham told the debt collection company that he did not know anything about this but they were not interested, telling him they will take his possessions away if he did not pay.

Lucinda from Warrington explained that she has been hounded by a debt collection company for the past three months. They claim she owes £455 to EON in relation to a contract she terminated in 2018. They have told her they will take her to court if she fails to pay up in the next 14 days.

My advice

If you receive one of these debt collection letters treat it as a scam and ask the sender for proof that you owe the money. If they refuse, or are unable to prove you owe the money, tell them you deny the debt and do not accept it is genuine. Thereafter, simply ignore all future communications. You should then contact the energy provider in question, if it is still trading, asking it for proof of the debt.

No court in the land is going to find against you if there is no proof that you owe the debt – it is therefore highly unlikely that the debt collection company will take you to court.

If the debt collection company is able to prove you owe the debt, and it is the first time you have been billed for it, which seems to be a common occurrence, you can refuse to pay for any supply that was more than 12 months ago. Accordingly, you cannot be charged for gas or electricity used more than 12 months ago if you have not been correctly billed for it, or informed about it via a statement of account, previously. This includes situations where a supplier increases your direct debit because it was set too low. Suppliers cannot use this to recover any shortfall for a period longer than 12 months ago.

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