A recent report has found that 300,000 more households in the UK owe money to their energy suppliers this year than did last year following recent price hikes.
A survey conducted has shown that UK households owe a collective £393m to energy companies. This figure has risen by almost a quarter (£75m) in the last year alone, and is 36% higher than it was in 2016. The total number of households across the country who are currently in debt to their energy supplier has risen by 300,000 to around 3 million.
This news comes just before winter, a time of year when most households are expected to be in credit before their consumption of gas and electricity increases during the colder months. And it comes despite the UK experiencing one of the hottest summers this year since records began.
The higher levels of household debt seen this year are due to an ‘unprecedented’ number of price hikes by energy providers, which were mainly blamed on increasing wholesale costs. A total of 55 price hikes from 32 different energy suppliers have been announced since the start of the year. Some of the ‘big six’ suppliers, including British Gas, have put up their tariffs twice this year alone. These price rises have added almost £900m annually to domestic energy bills.
Fuel poverty campaigners have claimed these figures are evidence that the government, regulators and the energy industry must collectively do more to help the poorest and most vulnerable families this winter. They suggest that many people across the UK will now be worrying about where or not they are able to afford to turn on their heating this winter. “Millions of people are approaching this winter with dread and will face unmanageable situations,” said Peter Smith, director of policy and research at National Energy Action, “those who are repaying large or growing energy debts often don’t turn the heating on at all, despite knowing it could badly damage their or their families’ health.”
The energy industry has responded to these new figures by offering support to the most vulnerable customers and urging those who are struggling to come forward. The industry’s trade association, Energy UK said: “If customers are struggling, the most important thing is to get in touch with their energy supplier as soon as possible so they can provide help and support.”
Of the households currently in debt to their energy suppliers, they owe on average £134 each.
If your tariff price is set to increase, you will receive a notification from your supplier. If you get one of these, the best thing you can do is to compare tariffs from other providers and see if you can find something cheaper.