Is it too late to submit a meter reading?

Gas and electricity company websites have been jammed since Thursday, collapsing under a deluge of customers rushing to submit meter readings before the 1 April regulated energy price cap increase in Great Britain.

Is it too late to submit a meter reading?

No. If you read your meter on 31 March you can still submit the reading and get the units you had used before the change charged at the old rate.

Providers are saying that customers can send in readings over the next few days – some are being less specific than others about whether there is a deadline.

At E.ON, customers have until Saturday 9 April to go online and submit their meter readings for 31 March. A spokesperson adds: “Smart meter customers do not need to do anything as their readings will automatically be shared with us.”

EDF says its customers can share meter readings “over the coming days and into next week and we will adjust the account accordingly”.

Scottish Power is accepting readings online and via its app.

A bag with the logo of E.ON on it
E.ON customers have until Saturday 9 April to go online and submit their meter readings for 31 March. Photograph: Thilo Schmülgen/Reuters

British Gas has a form on its website that customers can fill in with Thursday’s meter reading and says this will remain available next week. Anyone who received a text from the company on Thursday asking for a reading can still reply.

Is it too late to do a reading?

Not if you are a customer of Octopus – its prices do not actually rise until Saturday. Customers will then have a week to submit their readings.

Should I ditch direct debit?

Rising monthly direct debits have prompted some energy customers to consider switching their arrangements and paying when they receive their bills. Before you do this, check that it will not end up costing you more.

The price cap for customers who pay in this way is £130 a year higher than for direct debit customers, and you could find that your standing charges and unit rates rise. At British Gas, for example, paying in this way attracts a standing charge of 51p on electricity and a unit rate of 30p, against a 45p standing charge for direct debit customers and a unit rate of 28p.

SSE says on its website that switching from on-demand payment to direct debit could save its customers up to £129 a year.

An online energy bill on a phone
Some energy customers are considering switching to paying when they receive their bills rather than by direct debits. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

What help can I get if I’m struggling?

If you are having problems with the new prices there may be help available from your provider. Most have funds to support their most vulnerable customers and will tell you if you qualify, and should be able to point you towards other help and advice.

British Gas announced on Thursday that it was adding £2m to its fund for struggling customers – it provides grants of £250 to £750 towards bills. If you have less than £1,000 in savings and need help you can apply. It has another fund to help customers of other energy companies – this is currently closed but will open again on 1 July.