The energy price crisis has now left millions of customers in the dark over refunds and looming bills.
Four million households have lost their supplier since the cost of gas started to soar just three months ago.
But many have told Money Mail they have heard nothing about recouping credit balances or what they will soon have to pay.
Priced out: About four million households have now lost their supplier since the cost of gas started to soar just two months ago
Bulb, which had 1.7 million customers, this week became the largest firm to go bust — following more than 20 others.
And a Money Mail poll today reveals that two-thirds of households are now concerned about how they will afford their energy bills this winter.
Six in ten households told us they were still waiting for a refund after their firm collapsed. And of these, a quarter have been waiting two months or more, according to the Consumer Intelligence survey.
Many are struggling to contact their new supplier by phone or email.
Sarah Cooper, a babywear entrepreneur from Surrey, was £460 in credit when her supplier, Green, went under in September.
Shell Energy is taking on the firm’s customers, but Sarah, 42, says she has heard nothing about her bills or credit.
She says: ‘We have been left in the lurch. It’s not a small sum of money and it could be really useful around this time of year.’
Former Avro Energy customer Suzanne Samaka, from Watford, is confused about where her bills stand now that Octopus has taken on her account.
Left in the lurch: Sarah Cooper says she has heard nothing about her bills or credit after Green Energy went bust
The 33-year-old, who runs youth mental health campaign Honesty About Editing, says: ‘I also don’t know if we’re paying the right amount or whether we’re going to be landed with a huge bill soon.’
Cait Naven, whose provider Utility Point collapsed in September, is still waiting for her first bill from her new supplier, EDF.
The 24-year-old was £193.49 in credit in August and she has continued to pay the £108 monthly direct debit.
Cait, who lives in Manchester, says: ‘I am worried that my bills will be super-high.’
Regulator Ofgem is now looking to place Bulb into special administration. And with wholesale gas prices showing no sign of falling, experts warn dozens more firms could go under.
Here we explain where you stand if you are caught up in the crisis…
What happens when they fail?
Regulator Ofgem will appoint a new supplier to take over your account, so you do not need to worry about your power being cut off. This usually takes a few days and the new firm should contact you around a week later.
But if that firm is taking on a large number of customers, the transfer could take months.
If you had requested to switch firms before your old supplier ceased trading, you should still be moved to your chosen company.
For Bulb customers, the process is a little different as it is the first time such a large firm has failed. For now, they will remain on the same tariff until an administrator is appointed and works out what to do.
Customers with pre-payment meters can continue to use any money loaded on to their meter.
A new supplier should prioritise sending them a new key if they need one to top up their account.
Bill fears: Cait Naven, whose provider Utility Point collapsed in September, is still waiting to be transferred to her new supplier EDF
Could I lose any money?
If you were previously locked into a fixed deal, then your bills will probably increase. This is because your new firm will move you to a standard variable rate tariff.
These deals are protected by a price cap, which is currently £1,277 a year for the average user.
But this is still about £410 a year more expensive than the best fixed deals on offer six months ago, according to comparison site The Energy Shop.
What if I have credit built up?
Any credit you had with your old supplier should be transferred to your new account.
If you are owed a large sum, you should be able to request a refund from your new provider. However, many customers complain that this can take months. If you were mid-way through a switch when your firm went bust, your balance should be transferred to your new supplier.
If something goes wrong, it is up to Ofgem’s appointed provider to refund you. Any debt will also be carried over to your new account.
If my firm folds, what can i do?
Take a meter reading as soon as you can. Write it down somewhere safe or take a photo on your phone so you have a record in the event of a dispute.
It is also a good idea to keep hold of any recent bills and print copies if you can only view them online. In most circumstances you should never cancel your direct debit; this is to ensure any refunds can be paid into your account.
However, if your old supplier continues to take cash once your new provider has started billing you, cancel it immediately.
Ask the new supplier for a refund of the duplicate payment.
he cheapest fixed tariff on the market now costs the average household £1,650 a year – some £373 more than the price cap, according to The Energy Shop
Can I switch to a better deal?
With firms prevented from charging customers on standard variable tariffs more than the price cap, many have hiked fixed deals.
In fact, the cheapest fixed tariff on the market now costs the average household £1,650 a year – some £373 more than the price cap, according to The Energy Shop.
The comparison site has warned that the cap could rise as high as £1,751 in April to account for higher wholesale prices, so there is a small chance you could end up saving in the long run.
However, experts are urging families to stay put until the market calms down and cheaper deals re-emerge.
Some firms have also been accused of refusing to take on new customers. But this is against Ofgem’s licensing rules.
Will my supplier be next?
Smaller firms were always at more risk of folding this winter, as they cannot ‘hedge’ by buying gas and electricity far in advance.
However, Bulb’s collapse suggests no provider is infallible.
Telltale signs of a struggling supplier include a sudden drop in customer service standards and long delays in refunding credit.
You can complain to the Energy Ombudsman if there is no resolution to a problem after eight weeks. You can also switch to a new supplier before your firm collapses.
But with no cheap deals left, it’s almost certainly better to sit tight for now.
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