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Can I switch if I’m in energy debt?

If you’re paying off an energy debt using a prepayment meter, it’s still possible to switch energy companies. Take a closer look at how it works.

Many people think that a debt balance means you can’t switch energy companies until you’re back in the black. But that’s not the case – switching is often possible even if you’re paying back an energy debt.

What’s the Debt Assignment Protocol?

It’s a way to help prepayment customers who’re paying off energy debts move from one energy company to another. Ofgem has asked all energy companies to make it easier for prepayment customers with energy debt to switch. Depending on the energy company you’re currently with – and who you want to switch to – you should be able to move up to £500 of debt per fuel (£1,000 for dual fuel) to someone new.

Who can switch under the Debt Assignment Protocol?

Customers who use prepayment (‘Pay As You Go’ or PAYG) meters to pay back debt.

Switching to OVO

Your old energy company may allow you to switch to OVO if your debt is less than £500 (for each fuel type), and if they do we’d be happy to take you on.  You’ll need to settle your debt with your old energy company directly with them (e.g., by agreeing a payment plan with them). This is the easiest way to ensure a smooth switch to OVO.

If your debt is over £500 (for either fuel type), then your old energy company is unlikely to allow you to switch until you settle your debt or bring it down below £500.

Switching away from OVO 

If you have built up an energy debt but want to move energy companies, you can switch away from OVO if your debt is less than £500 for each fuel. 

This is what you need to do:

  • Start the switching process with your new energy company.
  • Your new energy company will contact us and we’ll initially object to the switch.  We’ll let you know why and how you can contact your new energy company to discuss taking on your debt, to continue the switch.
  • You’ll need to talk to your new energy company about them taking on your debt.
  • Your new energy company will then ask us if we’re happy to transfer the debt to them.
  • If we agree, the switching process will restart and we’ll arrange for them to take on your debt the day you switch away.

If your debt is over £500 per fuel, then you’ll need to either keep paying back the amount you’ve agreed until you’re under the switching threshold, or make a one-off payment. 

  • Smart PAYG+ customers – make your payment in My OVO or call us on 0800 358 3523.
  • All other PAYG customers – call us on 0800 358 3523.

What happens to the debt? 

Your new energy company pays the money to OVO, taking over your debt. Then, over time, you pay the new energy company back in line with whatever you agree. That means you can keep paying it back through your meter, or possibly arrange a different repayment method with your new energy company.  

Free advice about switching energy companies when you have energy debt

If you’d like free, impartial advice about switching energy companies when you have an energy debt, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can help. They have created a page all about the Debt Assignment Protocol. If you’d prefer to talk to someone, give CAB a call 03454 04 05 06. 

There’s also more information on Debt Assignment Protocol on Ofgem’s website

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