What is 'Don't Pay UK' and what could happen if you refuse to pay soaring energy bills?

Protesters take to the street as energy prices break records. Credit: PA

Protesters planning to stop paying their direct debits on 1 October in a 'mass payment strike' are being warned of consequences - like being chased by debt collectors.The 'Don't Pay UK' campaign is calling for widespread energy bill boycotts as costs soar for households up and down the country.The energy price cap is expected to rise by around 50% from October, meaning bills for the average household not on a fixed tariff could rise from £1,971 per year to a predicted £3,315.

What is Don't Pay UK's plan?The campaign is threatening energy companies with the prospect of millions of households stopping bill payments, in a bid to pile pressure on companies to reduce bills to "affordable levels".

The group already has support from almost 100,000 people.

What happens if I cancel my direct debit?

The charity Citizens Advice UK has warned of "serious" consequences for those who don't pay bills.

Head of energy policy Gillian Cooper said, for starters, "if you cancel your direct debit, you might be charged a fee. Check your supplier’s website to find out what this might be."

She added that if you move from direct debit to a different payment method you will likely end up paying more, as direct debit is often the cheapest option.

Could I end up in debt or being cut off from my energy supply?

"When you build up arrears to your energy supplier they can take action like moving you onto a prepayment meter or, in rare cases, they could disconnect you," Ms Cooper explained. 

However, your supplier must serve you notice before they take these steps, in order to give you time to pay any debts.

Refusing to pay bills could also impact your credit rating, "potentially making it harder to take out loans, credit cards or mortgages in the future", Rocio Concha from Which? said.

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How might a mass payment strike impact the energy industry?

"Such action may have detrimental consequences on energy companies and supply chains," Hafez Abdo, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham's Energy Institute said.

While acknowledging that non-payment would be a means of expressing anger at "unbearable" energy prices, Mr Abdo explained that some firms might suffer "a severe hit to their cash inflow and this means these companies would not be able to pay for their liabilities and other operating costs".

"People may lose their jobs and businesses in the supply chain may go bankrupt," he said.

Mr Abdo suggested that, instead of the upcoming £400 energy bill discount, the government takes a "more thoughtful" approach to avoiding such a scenario.