Nearly 5.3m in UK homes in debt to energy suppliers

Posted at January 24, 2024 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Nearly 5.3m in UK homes in debt to energy suppliers

New research by Citizens Advice reveals that 5.3 million individuals currently live in households with debt to their energy suppliers.

The survey, including over 4,000 participants, indicates that over 2 million people in Britain may self disconnect this winter due to financial constraints, unable to top up their prepayment meters.

Conducted in late 2023, the research underscores significant challenges in energy affordability, prompting the need for targeted interventions and policies to address the pressing issue faced by households burdened with energy debt.

National Energy Action Director of Policy Peter Smith commented: “Households underheating their homes can be dangerous both physically and mentally and even fatal. Prepayment meter customers, in particular, are at risk of not being able to top up.

“They have had to pay dearly from day one of the energy crisis and are still facing energy bills almost double what they were at the start of it, two years ago.

“Despite the UK Government often citing the generosity of their support last winter, almost £100 million that should have gone towards supporting prepayment customers went back to the Treasury.

“These are people who cannot afford to heat their homes to a reasonable standard of warmth, and are living in cold, damp homes. Vulnerable households urgently need more support to pay these unaffordable energy bills.”

An Ofgem spokesperson told Energy Live News: “Ofgem shares the concerns of Citizens Advice about the issue of rising debt and customers self-disconnecting from their energy supply amid the wider cost of living pressures.

“We already have introduced tougher rules to make sure that energy companies do more to spot the signs when a customer may be struggling and step in to offer support, including working out affordable payment plans and providing emergency credit to reduce the risk of self-disconnection.

“We work closely with Citizens Advice and other consumer groups and charities to address the issues people are facing – and we will continue to explore more options to help struggling and vulnerable customers.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told Energy Live News: “We recognise the cost of living challenges families are facing, which is why we are spending £104 billion supporting households with their bills.

“While energy prices are lower than last winter, our Energy Price Guarantee remains in place to protect people until April, and we encourage anyone experiencing difficulties with their energy bills to speak with their supplier.

“We’re also continuing to support the most vulnerable, with three million households expected to benefit from the £150 Warm Home Discount, £900 for those on means-tested benefits, and an extra £150 for disabled people.”

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