Campaign calls on one million British consumers to stop paying energy bills | energy bills

The campaign urged one million consumers to stop paying their energy bills from October in protest against record price hikes.

A group of activists who operate anonymously for fear of repercussions from energy companies launched a no-pay campaign last Saturday and have already collected 4,000 followers on social media. They say they hope to bring back the ballot tax protests that helped bring down the Margaret Thatcher government when 17 million people refused to pay.

The statement, written in black and yellow on the group’s website, reads: “Millions of us will not be able to afford food and bills this winter. We cannot let that happen. We demand that bills be reduced to a reasonable level. We will cancel our direct discounts from October 1 if we are ignored. “.

Energy costs are up this year, with annual maximum average bills increasing by around £700 to nearly £2,000 in April. It is expected to rise again in October to just under £3,000, meaning costs will more than double in less than a year. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a £15 billion aid package to provide one-time payments to families, but the ‘don’t pay’ scheme argues this will not be enough.

“A lot of hope has been lost as we head toward a truly catastrophic winter,” said Tom, a spokesperson for the initiative. “Thousands of people will freeze to death in their homes if we do nothing.” He is calling for “large-scale intervention” and lower bills.

Tom is one of the “15 to 20” working on the campaign. He deliberately obfuscates about his background, only revealing that he worked in “Neighborhood Energy Policy”, and refuses to give his surname. “We’re not actually asking people not to pay, we’re saying ‘that’s an idea,’ but it can be interpreted as inciting people to break contracts and they can go after people personally,” he says of the decision to remain anonymous. .

Tom says he was inspired by grim encounters with consumers struggling to pay the bills. “I’ve spoken to people with cancer who say they train themselves to withstand the cold or only have one or two meals a day – they should spend all their energy fighting this terrible disease. And parents who don’t feed themselves to feed their children, but also wrap the children in blankets and a poncho as they try to do their homework.”

The campaign uses social media and community groups to gain momentum. About 20,000 posts were requested from the site in the first week by people looking to join the campaign across England, Scotland and Wales.

Don’t Pay aims to persuade 1 million of the UK’s 28 million electricity customers to stop paying their monthly direct debit, if no action is taken to cushion the October rise. She estimates that a million people could withhold £1.4 billion from energy company coffers over the winter.

Those who have signed up will not be required to publicly state their refusal to pay but simply share their approximate location to show the scale of a potential “mass non-payment strike”.

Campaign activists are vocal about the risks involved. Those using prepaid counters are discouraged as they will be disconnected when their balance runs out. Suppliers will usually contact consumers if they have not paid their bills after 28 days. The company must then give them the opportunity to settle their debts through a payment plan.

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If a consumer refuses to subscribe to a plan, they may have to go to a prepaid counter. “This means you can’t use energy without paying — and you’ll pay more for it,” said Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown. “There are certain rules they have to follow before they can do that, and they can’t do that if it’s unsafe, but as long as they stick to the rules, you can’t stop them. If you refuse to let them in, they can get a warrant, and the cost of the note will be added to your debt owed.”

In extreme circumstances, suppliers can fire customers by obtaining an injunction or disconnect remotely if they have a smart meter. Persons who are weak or over retirement age cannot be dismissed during the winter season. If energy bills are included in the rent and the rent is not paid, landlords may move to evict the tenant.

Don’t Pay magazine says that thousands of customers who don’t pay simultaneously will “paralyze and create a backlog for months”. Tom argues, “If there were a million people out there and they decided to go the route of trying to sue everyone, it wouldn’t be particularly successful.”

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