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How to get help with household bills and other expenses during coronavirus

If you're struggling to pay your household bills and other expenses because of coronavirus, read below to find out what you can do. Here are some key things you can do right away:

  • Contact your supplier as soon as possible if you can't make payments

  • Find out if you can save money by switching energy suppliers

  • Check if you are owed any refunds from planned travel or events

  • Cancel or pause subscriptions if you need to save money

Household bills

I can't pay my gas and electric

Energy regulator Ofgem has said energy companies should take measures to support customers who are struggling with payments.

They have also confirmed that prepayment meters won't be disconnected during the outbreak.

If you're struggling to pay your bill, get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible. They may reassess your tariff or reduce your bills, depending on your situation.

I have a prepayment meter — how do I top up?

If you're a vulnerable adult or are self-isolating, Ofgem recommends you choose someone you trust to top up your meter for you.

You'll need to hand over your top-up card or key to do this. Make sure you keep the recommended two metres distance apart when doing so, and disinfect the card.

I don't have someone who can top up for me

If you have a smart meter, you might be able to top up online or via an app. Plus, some energy companies can post you prepaid top-up cards and keys.

Get in touch with your energy supplier to see if either of these options are possible.

I need to save money on energy

Energy prices fell on 1st April 2020 because of the energy price cap. But, if you want to save even more money on energy, it might be worth switching suppliers to get a better deal.

I can't pay my water bill

If you can't keep on top of your water payments, get in touch with your water company to talk through your options.

A lot of water companies have hardship schemes in place to support those who are struggling.

I can't pay my council tax

Contact your local council if you are struggling to pay your council tax. Each council has its own scheme to provide help to struggling households.

The government has confirmed it will provide a hardship fund for those affected most by coronavirus. Some of this will include council tax relief. Find your local council here.

I can't pay my TV licence

Contact TV licencing directly if you are struggling to pay. They have a reduced team so it may take longer to get through.

If you are self-isolating and can't make a payment at a PayPoint, you can make payments online and via phone.

Licence fee charges for over 75s have been delayed until August.

I can't pay my phone and internet bill

Each network provider has measures in place to support those who are struggling to pay phone and internet bills.

Many phone and internet providers have said you won't be automatically disconnected if you can't pay your bill. Others have added extras onto contracts, such as more data.

Check with your provider to see what they can offer you.

I'm struggling to pay my insurance

Contact your insurance company to tell them you're struggling with payments because of coronavirus. The Financial Conduct Authority says companies should offer help and run though different options.

The company should also consider that circumstances are different. For example, you might not be using your car at the moment but still paying the insurance.

What can an insurance company do?

If you tell a company you're struggling, they might offer you a range of options, depending on your circumstances.

This could include considering an alternative product, not charging fees if your policy changes, or postponing payments. If you paid an insurance premium upfront, you may be able to get a refund.

Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible if you're struggling.

Subscriptions, leisure, and entertainment

Some events and activities are no longer possible due to coronavirus. If any of these affect you, it's worth seeing if you can get a refund to save some money.

Gym memberships

Many gyms have already contacted customers about freezing payments while they're closed. If you haven't heard anything, contact your gym to check.

Train tickets

Most train season tickets and advance tickets are refundable without extra admin fees. Contact the relevant train company or website you booked through.

For monthly and annual season tickets, the payment will be backdated from when you last used it.

Demand for train ticket refunds is much higher than normal, so it may take slightly longer for the refund to arrive in your bank account.

Flights and holidays

As per the government's guidelines, you shouldn't travel unless it's essential. If your holiday (flight, hotel, cruise) is cancelled, you should be able to rebook or get a refund.

Airbnb are also offering refunds due to the extreme circumstances and you should be able to do this online.

If you're struggling to get a refund but have booked on your credit card, you might be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. The purchase must be more than £100 to be eligible. Find out more here.

Concerts, shows, and sporting events

If an event has been cancelled, the organiser will let you know and you should be able to get a refund. You might get a refund automatically.

If an event has been postponed, you may not get a refund. However, if you can't make the rescheduled date, you should get in touch with the relevant organiser to request a refund and explain you can't attend.

Delivery services

Amazon is still offering deliveries during the lockdown. But, it may take longer for deliveries to arrive. When you checkout, it should give you an estimated delivery date.

Most online shops are still operating but at a slower pace, and many essential and higher-demand items may be sold out. You also might have to pay more than usual for delivery.

Drivers may leave packages on the doorstep to avoid contact.

If you've signed up to any premium services that you're currently not using, it might be worthwhile cancelling your subscription. This could also include other regular deliveries, such as alcohol, razors, meal plans, magazines, and newspapers.

TV bundles, extras, and add-ons

As most live sport is now postponed, many services, such as Sky and BT Sports, are allowing customers to temporarily stop payments. Check on your supplier's website to see what measures they have in place at the moment.

Some people have add-ons to their TV packages, as well as their internet and phone subscriptions. You should consider if these are absolutely necessary and whether it's worth pausing them over the next few months to save some money.

Streaming services

Streaming services are operating as normal, but if you're having financial difficulties, cutting back on one or two can reduce your monthly outgoings.

Planned events

If you cancelled an event, such as a wedding or christening, in April, May, or June, you may be able to get a refund. Those planning events later in the year will need to follow appropriate guidance as it changes, and consider what's best.

Can I get a refund or deposit back?

Check your cancellation and refund policies for the venue, caterer and various other suppliers. If you have insurance, you should also check with your provider what is covered.

Some insurance providers have confirmed they will cover cancellations if a wedding or reception is closed because of the restrictions.

What if one of the suppliers collapses?

If one of your suppliers collapses due to coronavirus, check with your insurance if you're covered.

If you don't have insurance, you may be able to get some of the money back if you booked on a credit card. All purchases between £100 and £30,000 will be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Be careful cancelling direct debits

If you want to take a mortgage, credit card, or loan holiday, or pause a subscription or bill, it's important you don't cancel the direct debit without first arranging with the lender or service.

Cancelling without letting them know could mean letters demanding payment, harming your credit score, or missed payments showing on your report.

Always contact the provider first to talk through your options.

I'm worried about getting into debt

Debt charity Stepchange offers free help and advice to those struggling. They can guide you through sensitive matters, and have a host of information on their website about debt and coronavirus.

Their phone lines are still open but there are less staff working, so bear this in mind when calling.

Citizens Advice is also available to give free and confidential advice. They cover a range of issues, including debt. As well as guides and information online, you can talk to someone online and over the phone, though this may take longer than usual at the moment.

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