Five million homes in debt to energy firms

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More than five million households are now in the red to their energy supplier, owing an estimated £637m, figures published today reveal.

The number has soared by more than a million in the past year while average bills have climbed almost £100 to £1,353.

While energy firms are no longer allowed to cut off supply to people in payment arrears, they may try to persuade customers struggling with debts to switch to pre-payment meters – a move that will end up costing householders more. However, the number that make such a swap is just two per cent.

According to research from uSwitch, two-fifths of households – 41 per cent – owe more than they did a year ago, while only one in 10 – nine per cent – owes less.

Just over two in 10 – 22 per cent – of those in debt turn a blind eye to it in the hope that the amount they owe will go down naturally over time.