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1.4 million* homeowners have utility bill debts

16 November 2015
  • 8% of homeowners have energy bills in arrears, owing on average £161;
  • Nearly a third (32%) have energy bill debts of between £101 and £300;
  • Only 21% of homeowners with arrears on their energy bills felt their supplier had been helpful in dealing with the debt.

New research published today reveals that 1.4m UK homeowners are in arrears with their gas or electricity bills, owing suppliers £161, on average.  Worryingly, the survey found that a significant proportion of people who are having problems paying their energy bills haven’t contacted their supplier to discuss their situation, or are simply ignoring the debt in the hope it will go away.

The survey, commissioned by Gocompare.com Energy, found that 29% of those in arrears leave the debt in the hope that it will sort itself out over time.  Only 11% of those struggling to pay their energy bill had contacted their supplier for help.

The survey also revealed that the average amount owed is £161, while just under half (47%) owe up to £100, 32% have energy bill debts of between £101 and £300, and 15% owe over £300.

Just over a fifth (21%) of homeowners surveyed said that their energy supplier has been helpful in dealing with the debt and they had managed to agree a repayment plan with them.  However, 16% thought their energy provider had been very unsympathetic and 15% said that they had been made to feel under pressure from their energy supplier to repay the arrears.

Commenting on the survey, Gocompare.com’s energy spokesman, Tom Lewis, said: “If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills it’s important to get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible.  As tempting as it may be, sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the situation is the worst thing you can do.  The arrears won’t go away and your gas or electricity supplier could disconnect your service if they don’t realise you are struggling financially.

“So as soon as you have difficulty paying your utility bills, contact your provider to explain the situation and ask if you can come to an agreement about paying off the arrears.  This demonstrates 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. "

Gocompare.com has created a guide on help with winter fuel bills

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Notes to editors:

*1.4m homeowners calculation based on: 26.4 million households in the UK (ONS 2012) of which 64% (16.9m) are owner-occupied as opposed to rented.  8% of 16.9m is 1.4m.