Social Justice

Hundreds of thousands of people are missing out on the government's £400 energy rebate

Only 60 per cent of energy bill support vouchers have been claimed so far, according to the Post Office

Person on phone/ Energy rebate

People are ending up embroiled in back and forth communication between their energy suppliers and landlords. Image: Pexels

Hundreds of thousands of people with prepayment energy meters have not received the £400 government rebate because they can’t access the voucher scheme or don’t know about it.

While most people across the UK have received the first instalment of the £400 energy rebate automatically in October, people on traditional prepayment meters have to wait to receive vouchers from their supplier and then redeem them.

According to the Post Office, the UK’s biggest processor of the vouchers, only 60 per cent of people have redeemed them. 

One renter told The Big Issue she is having significant problems getting the vouchers. After having no communication from her supplier about the support, she has been embroiled in a back and forth about who is actually supplying the property with energy. 

EDF, who she believed to be her supplier, said the meter wasn’t on their system and to contact her landlord to check if the meter is registered. The landlord had never heard of the energy rebate and does not understand why the energy supplier has no record of the meter. 

“It’s been really frustrating,” the woman said. “It’s been over a month already. It’s obviously not EDF’s fault we aren’t registered, but it just becomes a never-ending cycle of one person telling you to speak to someone else, and they tell you to talk to another person.”

“No one has the impetus to sort it out because they don’t benefit from the rebate,” the woman said. “But it’s important to me. £60 is potentially two months of electricity based on what I use, and in the cost of living crisis that money can make a huge difference.”

After The Big Issue contacted EDF, a representative for the CEO’s office reached out to the woman about her concerns and the company is making progress to ensure the meter is registered. 

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Alasdair Mcclenahan, from tenant advice non-profit Justice for Tenants, said: “Energy companies should be writing to all addresses where they have a customer who they have not given a rebate to, informing them they are entitled to a rebate, and giving clear instructions on how to claim the rebate.”

He added that it’s “especially upsetting” as people on prepayment meters are often the poorest tenants, who are most in need of this rebate. 

Another person told The Big Issue they were in a similar position – having had years of issues getting their prepayment meter registered with the correct address. Their meter is believed to have been incorrectly registered, so the supplier has no record of the serial number. 

After nearly 14 years trying to get the meter correctly registered and updated, there is still significant confusion over which supplier is actually providing them with electricity. British Gas has said the electricity rebate vouchers are in the post, but there is no sign of them and the voucher number given over the phone was refused by the Post Office.

“I’m angry and frustrated,” the person said. “It’s even affected my sleep as it just rolls around in my head, over and over again.”

Payment company PayPoint, which also processes the vouchers, told the BBC it expected to process 800,000 vouchers in October, worth a total of £52.8million. Only £27million has been redeemed so far. 

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis also tweeted saying he has heard some people are unable to claim their energy support vouchers because they “say you need photo ID – and you may not have”. He added they should accept a household bill or bank statement dated within the last 12 months instead.

Another reason people seem to be missing the vouchers is that they are simply not turning up in the post. One man called British Gas a week after the vouchers were expected and was told by customer services that they had already been sent. 

“They couldn’t provide me with a date it was sent or an estimated date of arrival for it,” he added. “As of today I haven’t received any voucher.” 

A spokesperson for Energy UK, the country’s largest energy trade association, said customers who haven’t received vouchers should get in touch with their suppliers.

They added: “Suppliers want to do everything they can to help those struggling with bills and so will make repeated attempts to ensure customers receive their vouchers, using the channels and contact details available to them.”

Mcclenahan, of Justice for Tenants, also advised that customers reach out to their energy provider in writing to request their rebate, confirming their meter serial number and also their home address. If the issue isn’t resolved he suggested complaining to regulator Ofgem.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not respond to a request for comment.

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