Can’t pay, won’t pay: thousands in UK vow to ignore energy bills | Energy bills

Like millions of people across the UK, Josina, a teacher from Sheffield, is being pushed into poverty by rising energy prices. In October, when the bills are due to rise again, she will have to cut back on food and other necessities if she has any hope of keeping up with the payments.

“It’s terrifying, especially with three teenagers in the house. They are not old enough to be out working yet. They depend on us and it’s a very scary thought that you potentially can’t provide for your children like that,” she said.

So Josina, 35, has made a decision: she is not going to pay the energy bill. She is one of thousands of activists joining a civil disobedience movement protesting the skyrocketing cost of energy.

From October 1, the energy price cap – the maximum amount suppliers can charge in England, Scotland and Wales – will increase, leading to further bill increases for millions of customers. The typical gas and electricity bill is expected to reach £3,358 in October, according to consultancy Cornwall Insight. In October 2021, the average annual bill was £1,400.

Protesters are expected to take to the streets. But in addition to more traditional campaigning methods, they also plan to put pressure on energy suppliers and the government by ignoring their bills and canceling direct debits.

Don’t Pay UK, the anonymous group organizing the campaign, says it hopes enough people will follow suit to put energy companies in “serious trouble”. “We want to bring them to the table and force them to end this crisis,” the website said.

The move has been condemned by the government. “These are highly irresponsible messages, which will ultimately only push up rates for everyone else and affect personal credit ratings,” a spokesperson said. “While no government can control global gas prices, we are providing £37 billion in help to households, including £400 off energy bills, and £1,200 in direct support to the most vulnerable households to help with living costs.”

Debt and finance experts, meanwhile, are urging people to make sure they are fully informed about the potential risks of not paying, such as increased debt, and the chance of being put on an arrears meter, or charged extra. In extreme cases, the suppliers can cut the energy, although this is rare.

Josina is aware of the risk, and says not paying is the only option for her and millions of others. In recent days, she has taken to the streets to hand out hundreds of flyers, and says the response has been “really positive”.

“People are angry and scared,” she said. “We’re not doing this by choice. Millions of people across this country are going to be thrown into poverty this winter. And the strike is the only way we can push back. It’s not a choice anyone takes lightly. I would much rather not have to do this. But it’s the only choice we have.” Don’t Pay UK, which was launched in June, said more than 75,000 people have so far signed up to join the strike unless radical action is taken by the government.

More than 21,000 people “from all walks of life” are “organising” in their communities, it added, with activists in cities including Bristol, Brighton, Manchester and London using messaging app Telegram to coordinate leaflet campaigns to raise awareness – more than 1 .6 million of these have been distributed so far.

Organizers remain anonymous, fearful of a potential backlash, but say they are a group of friends who came up with the idea “after becoming convinced of the need to do something about the growing cost of living crisis”.

“From snooker halls to pubs, at work or at the school gate, everyone is talking about how much they are already struggling and the fear of when the bills rise again in October,” said a spokesman for the group.

He added that the protest was a “solid approach” and something “that will actually work”. “Don’t Pay wouldn’t have caught so much attention if it was a simple gimmick,” he said. “It will work, and everyone, including the energy industry and the government, knows it.”

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