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One in ten gas and electricity customers are currently in arrears

05 November 2014

A new survey of 2,000 UK adults reveals:

  • One in ten customers owe their energy supplier money, on average £239;
  • Over a quarter (26%) of customers who owe money on their gas and electricity bills ignore the debt, in the hope it will sort itself out over time;
  • Only 20% of customers in energy arrears have contacted their supplier to ask for help.

According to new research published today, one in ten Brits are in arrears with their gas or electricity bills, owing suppliers on average, £239.  Worryingly, the survey found that many people who are struggling to pay their energy bills haven’t contacted their supplier to discuss their situation or are ignoring the debt in the hope it will sort itself out over time.

The survey, commissioned by Gocompare.com, found that 26% of those in arrears said that they were hoping that the debt would sort itself out over time.  Only one in five of those struggling to pay their bill had contacted their supplier for help.

The survey also revealed that of those in debt:

  • Owe on average £239, 28% owe in excess of £300, 7% admitted to be in significant debt owing over £800;
  • 26% said that their energy supplier has been helpful and they had managed to agree a repayment plan;
  • 12% thought their energy provider had been unsympathetic;
  • 13% have felt under pressure from their provider to repay the arrears;
  • One in five would like to switch provider – but have been unable to because they are in arrears.

Commenting on the research, Jeremy Cryer, Gocompare.com’s energy spokesperson, said: “If you are in debt or struggling to pay your energy bills, ignoring the situation is the worst thing you can do – suppliers might cut off your supply if they don’t realise you are struggling financially.

“You should contact your supplier as soon as you have difficulty paying to explain the situation and ask if you can come to an agreement about paying off the arrears – this shows that you are willing to repay the debt but just need longer to do so.  Under Ofgem rules, suppliers have a duty to help, and should give you advice about how you can pay the debt and offer you a payment plan at a rate that you can afford.”

For more help on understanding your energy bill or switching your energy supplier visit http://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/

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Notes to editors:

On 24 September 2014 an online survey was conducted among 2,002 randomly selected British adults age 18+ who are also Springboard United Kingdom Community members. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current data on age, gender, region, and education from the most recent census data, to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of the UK. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.