Thursday, 17 November 2011

I am supporting the consumer Focus and Citizens Advice heating bills campaign

I am supporting a new awareness campaign led by Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice, aimed at letting people know where they stand legally, should they have problems covering the soaring cost of energy.

With winter just around the corner, lots of constituents have contacted me expressing their concerns about energy prices and it is incredibly important that people know their rights should they be unable to pay their bills. It is clearly worrying that the number of people with debts on energy bills is set to rise and these people need to get the right help.

In the North West, 57% of people are worried that they will not be able to afford their energy bill this winter. One of the highest rates in the country. Energy prices have on average risen 7%

In recent weeks the number of my constituents who have contacted me about their energy bills has risen considerably, this campaign will help many who do not know where to turn. I encourage everyone to take a look at their website and see what rights consumers have if they fall short for their energy bills.

Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are keen to remind people of these five top tips:

1.    Always contact your energy supplier as soon as you realise you might have trouble with paying.  Debts will build-up and be harder to pay off the longer you leave them. Your supplier has a responsibility to help you if you have problems paying your bill.

2.    Tell your energy firm what you can afford to pay – they have to take this into account in agreeing repayments of the money you owe.

3.    Ask your energy company, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99 to find out about other free energy help available.  For example you could qualify for a discount off your bill or free insulation to help your home stop leaking heat and cut your bills.

4.    Even if you are in debt you may still be able to switch to a cheaper deal with your current supplier, especially if you pay by cash, cheque or pre-payment meter. If you pay by pre-payment meter and have less than £200 of debt you can also switch to a cheaper deal with another supplier.

5.    Financial help is available which could make it easier to afford your bills - check you are receiving all of the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to by getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or visiting www.adviceguide.org.uk.