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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

£130 OFF YOUR WINTER ELECTRICITY BILL

The big six energy suppliers are spending £1 billion over four years to give some low income customers a discount off one winter electricity bill. This year the discount is £130 and around two million households are eligible.

Pension age – ‘core group’
People over pension age on pension credit qualify for the discount if their income is below around £143 single or £218 (couple). That has to be true on 21 July 2012. People already 80 on that day qualify with a slightly higher income – below £161 (single) or £241 (couple). Some people with disabilities or carers can have higher incomes and still qualify. There are reckoned to be more than a million in this ‘core group’ and they should get the discount automatically – the energy supplier will match their details to a list provided by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Low income
Low income households can qualify for the discount if they apply for it. This is called the ‘broader group’. Each of the big six energy suppliers has its own rules about who qualifies in this group. Generally it is households on a low income where the customer or their partner or child is disabled or they have a child under 5. But each supplier has its own detailed rules and they are all different from each other. Some suppliers also include people over pension age on pension credit who do not get the automatic ‘core group’ payment. See 'Details' below for the six different schemes.

Apply
You apply to your energy company. Find it online or call the customer number no your bill. Ask about the Warn Home Discount. See 'Details' below for contact numbers for each scheme.  

Prepay
You can get the discount however you pay your bill. So it includes people on prepayment meters as well as those who pay quarterly or by monthly direct debit. People on prepayment meters will get a credit to put no their key. Some may get a cheque. More here http://cfe.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/6709

PROBLEMS
Big six only
Only the big six energy suppliers are part of the scheme. People with smaller suppliers and those in Northern Ireland will generally NOT get the discount.

The big six are:
British Gas (includes Sainsbury’s Energy), EDF Energy, E.on, npower, Scottish Power, SSE (includes Atlantic Energy, Scottish Hydro, Southern Energy, SWALEC, Ebico, Equipower, M&S Energy).

Utility Warehouse and Equigas give the discount to those in the core group only. People with the other smaller energy companies and those in Northern Ireland will NOT get the Warm Home Discount.

Social tariffs
Before 2011 people on low incomes could pay less for their energy through what were called ‘social tariffs’. They included schemes like Energycare Plus, Energy Assist, Essentials, Fresh Start, and Spreading Warmth. These schemes are closed to new applicants and are being phased out. But some people may still get them and they cannot get the Warm Home Discount as well.

Deadlines
The discount has to be made by 31 March 2013 and applications in theory can be accepted up to that date. However, some suppliers have earlier deadlines. British Gas says you have to apply by 31 December and E.on will only accept applications up to 24 January but both may be flexible. If you qualify it is best to apply as soon as possible.

Run out of cash
Even if you fulfil the conditions you may not get the discount. There is a fixed amount of money for the broader group scheme and once that runs out no one else will be paid. However, no supplier has run out yet.

Not paid automatically
If you are in the ‘core group’ of people on pension credit but have not been sent a letter you should contact your supplier and ask why. It is possible that the information held by the DWP is slightly different from the details held by the energy company and you are in what is called an ‘unmatched’ group. Call 0845 603 9439 to get it sorted out.

MORE DETAILS
The core group is defined as people on pension credit who get ONLY the guarantee credit and do NOT get any savings credit. However, people born 21 July 1932 or earlier qualify even if they get guarantee credit even if they also get some savings credit.

In general the date when you have to fulfil the conditions for the Warm Home Discount was 21 July 2012. If you have moved supplier since then it can get complicated. Ask your existing supplier what to do. Remember it is your electricity supplier who pays the discount. That is because everyone gets an electricity bill but not everyone has piped gas.

The broader group is defined differently by each of the six energy companies. You can read the details of each six and how to apply here

Thanks to Consumer Focus for that information.

There is a Warn Home Discount helpline on 0845 603 9439