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Don’t Pay UK says energy bills strike will not take place on October 1

Don’t Pay UK has confirmed the strike is not taking place and will only happen when one million people pledge to take part

Don’t Pay UK has confirmed the planned October 1 energy bills strike will not take place because the target of one million pledges has not been reached.

Around 190,000 people have so far signed up to the mass non-payment campaign, which was launched in June in response to soaring bills. It is not clear if people will be made aware they should not cancel their direct debits on October 1, however, and much of the campaign literature being circulated still mentions that date.

The group says a national day of action will take place instead on Saturday, with events expected to be held in communities across the country. It had always said the strike would take place once one million people had pledged to take part and that remains the plan.

A spokesperson for the group told the Big Issue: “We will not be going ahead this weekend, we will now strike when we reach one million. Instead, we have a national day of action, with protests, rallies, and stalls in many major cities.”

The original target was for everyone who had signed up to cancel their energy bill direct debits on October 1, when the price cap rises. Costs were expected to hit £3,500 a year but Liz Truss, in one of her first acts as prime minister, announced bills would be capped at £2,500 for two years. That’s still double what they were at the start of the year.

The most recent statement on the Don’t Pay UK website, posted after Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on Friday, reads: “We’ve now proven the strength of the Don’t Pay campaign. After 180,000 of us pledged to strike, the government was forced to reduce the catastrophic energy price hike scheduled for 1st October. 

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“The threat of all of us saying we won’t pay left the government with no other option. This is why we’ll keep going and strike when we hit one million pledges.” 

The group says there are currently 191,250 people pledging to strike, though there’s no guarantee everyone who has given over their email is actually going to take part.

A Don’t Pay UK leaflet. Image: Flickr/ Dunk.

When a person signs up, they receive an email urging them to print leaflets and flyers and distribute them in their  local area. One of those posters still says: “Don’t Pay. October 1. This house is refusing to pay energy bills.” 

Two more say: “We will cancel our direct debits from October 1 if we are ignored.” Graphics on the  website and social media pages also have the date October 1 in bold letters. 

On Monday morning, Don’t Pay campaigners in London “hijacked advertising spaces across the underground” to call on Monday-morning commuters to join the energy bill strike. They tweeted out an image calling on people to pledge to strike. This time, the date is not included in the literature.

When asked by the Big Issue about plans to let people know the strike will not take place on October 1, a Don’t Pay UK spokesperson said they “have been clear from the beginning” they would not strike until they reached one million pledges.

Last month the Big Issue spoke to a solicitor who said there were legal risks to cancelling your energy bills. Gary Rycroft, who also works as a personal finance writer, said refusing to pay bills could have “dire consequences for the individuals concerned”. 

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He said: “The bottom line is that you’re a customer and you signed a contract with your energy company. If you don’t pay, the business is within its legal rights to cease providing energy to you. That doesn’t happen immediately. There’s lots of safeguards in place but ultimately, a court will have no difficulty in finding in favour of a business. Anyone who doesn’t pay is liable to not have any energy anymore.

“Secondly, anyone who doesn’t pay is going to have a debt. If you enter into a contract with a business, they provide services to you and you don’t pay, the business is entitled to take enforcement action with regard to the debt. If you have a debt judgement against you, that has implications not only with regard to you being found liable for the debt and to pay that back, but it also has wider implications on your ability to get credit in the future.”

Don’t Pay UK said they would only strike if they get a “critical mass of people”. Rycroft said there was no legal argument in this, explaining that because individuals have signed a private contract, they stand alone in the eyes of the law. At the moment, the group is yet to reach its own threshold. 

Richard Lane, of the debt charity StepChange, added: “There can be severe consequences to missing or being late on a payment. If you don’t pay gas or electricity bills, your supplier can collect the debt you owe using a debt collection agency. They can also get a court warrant to enter your home to fit a prepayment card meter.

“Any arrears will be added to the meter and a set amount will be deducted each week. This means you must pay the arrears at a set weekly amount or lose the supply. Your supplier can also remove the meter and cut off your supply, but fortunately this is incredibly rare.”

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