Many people using prepayment meters have not yet claimed £400 vouchers to help with their energy bills, STV News has been told.
Households have already started receiving financial help as part of the UK Government’s energy bill support scheme.
But PayPoint, which offers a system for paying bills, said it had redeemed just half of the credit it expected to, even though vouchers for prepayment meters are valid for only 90 days.
The firm said it had issued around 800,000 vouchers on behalf of nine energy companies worth around £52.8m.
But only 53% of vouchers, valued at around £27m, have so far been redeemed at PayPoint stores.
The energy support scheme, which was announced in May and applies in England, Scotland and Wales, involves every household in the UK receiving a one-off £400 fuel bill discount.
The money is being paid in six instalments, with a discount of £66 applied to energy bills in October and November, rising to £67 each month from December through to March 2023.
Smart prepayment meter customers are seeing the discount credited directly to their meters in the first week of each month.
But more than four million people have a prepayment meter, and around half of those are the older, non-smart type of meter, according to energy watchdog Ofgem.
Traditional prepayment meter customers will be provided with discount vouchers or Special Action Messages (SAMs) in the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post. Customers will need to redeem these at their usual top-up point.
Those paying by direct debit will either see the discount applied at source by their provider or refunded back into their bank account after making their payment.
Citizens Advice Scotland spokesperson Stephanie Millar said: “It’s very concerning that many vulnerable households are not using the £400 voucher they’ve been sent, despite the fact that energy costs are so high.
“We fear that some people are not opening the letters from their energy company which contain the voucher, for fear it may be another bill.
“It’s vitally important that people access all the support that is available to them. If you’re on a PPM you should have received your voucher by now.
“If you have un-opened mail from your energy supplier, please open it and check. If you think you may have thrown it away un-opened, contact your supplier and ask for a replacement. If you’ve changed address recently, again contact your supplier and ask for your voucher to be sent to your new address.”
People can contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice, or visit their website here.
What is the energy price guarantee?
Former prime minister Liz Truss announced in September that the average household energy bill will rise from £1,971 to a frozen £2,500 for the next two years under the energy price guarantee.
It means that bills for a typical home – one that uses 12,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of gas a year, and 2,900 kWh of electricity a year – will not rise above £2,500.
But new chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced earlier this month he was scaling back the energy support package, with the two-year price freeze now only running for six months.
Hunt said the UK Government will launch a review on how to target support to those most in need after April in a bid to save taxpayers’ cash.
What exactly is being capped?
There’s no cap on how much you pay.
The cap is actually on the standing charges and the unit rates for gas and electricity, and this means if you use more energy, you’ll pay more.
As a result, people were being urged to submit meter readings on Friday before the cap kicked in.
The UK Government’s plan only caps the cost per unit that households pay, with actual bills still determined by how much energy is consumed.
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