Consumer Focus’s ‘Plug the Debt’ campaign is raising the awareness of what people who have fallen behind with their energy bills should do.
At this time of year, many residents will be receiving energy bills for their winter usage, something that can be a shock for some, so I want to rehighlight Consumer Focus’s ‘Plug the Debt’ campaign.
New research from Consumer Focus shows four in 10 people say their winter energy bill is even higher than last year, with almost a third saying their bill is higher than expected. This is despite one of the mildest winters in a decade which resulted in falls in energy consumption. The figures are particularly striking among those who pay by cash, cheque, or prepayment meter – many of whom live on low incomes.
Lower heating use over the mild winter will have cut energy bills for some customers. But for those who haven’t been able to reduce their heating, particularly those on low incomes who have already cut back as much as they can to make ends meet, higher prices than last winter could have left them with unexpected bill increases. Most energy firms’ price cuts didn’t come into effect until late winter – so at the start of January 2012 the average annual amount of energy cost over £180 more than the year before.
Worryingly the new findings also show that if energy prices rise further many more people think they will be unable to afford to pay their bill. A third of people say they could not afford to pay if their monthly bill rises by £30 and over half could not afford to pay if their monthly bill was to rise by £50. One in eight people, and one in four pre-payment meter customers, said they couldn’t afford to pay their bill if it rose by even £10 or less per month.
Consumer Focus’s ‘Plug the Debt’ have put together an information pack to help MPs and their constituents regarding energy debts. The pack can be downloaded from www.consumerfocus.org.uk/plugthedebt.