More families cannot pay their fuel bills
Monday 25 January 2010
A combination of cold weather, high gas and electricity prices and mounting pressure on disposable incomes could see a substantial rise in the number of families falling into debt with energy companies, consumer groups are warning.
The alert follows a report by the energy industry regulator, Ofgem, last week, which showed large numbers of people getting behind on their gas and electricity bills.
Ofgem said that even before the winter began, more customers were getting themselves into financial difficulties. There was a 13 per cent increase in the number of electricity customers entering into a new debt arrangement with their supplier in the third quarter of last year, Ofgem said, and a 21 per cent increase in such arrangements between households and their gas suppliers.
In addition, the average level of debt of customers in difficulties was 20 per cent higher than a year previously, and there has also been a substantial increase in the number of people with debts of £600 or more.
uSwitch, the price comparison site, warned that regulators needed to take the issue of debt more seriously, but also advised customers to switch supplier more regularly in order to find the cheapest possible deals. One problem is that the customers most likely to get into financial difficulties also seem to be those who find it difficult to pay their bills by direct debit, an arrangement for which most suppliers offer discounted prices.
"The recession will have played a part, but Ofgem cannot afford to brush the cost of energy under the carpet. Energy bills are substantially higher – at £327 or more – than they were at the beginning of 2008, even after suppliers cut their prices last year, and this will have had an impact on the ability of many households to afford and pay for their energy," said Thomas Lyon, an energy expert at uSwitch. "These debt numbers could get worse as we are in the middle of a bitter winter which could add an extra £60 on to our next quarterly bills because of the extra heating and energy we have all had to use – this will hit those who pay by cash or cheque particularly hard."
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...
£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...