There were notable increases in the number of people falling into debt with their gas and electricity suppliers over the course of last year, the energy sector’s regulator has revealed.
Ofgem has said that a growing number of people receive “additional services” to help them manage the finances relating to their energy supplies but the regulator still wants to see companies doing more to get indebted consumers onto proper energy bill repayment plans.
Last year saw 4.2 per cent more electricity customers find themselves in debt to their suppliers and 4.8 per cent more gas customers fall into arrears, which now means there are more than one million in both categories who are indebted across the UK.
There was a rise in the number of consumers being put onto energy bill repayment plans but the pace of growth is being easily outstripped by the numbers of people falling newly into debt with their energy suppliers.
Ofgem has been keen to encourage energy companies to do more to help vulnerable people keep pace with payment demands and to support indebted consumers nationwide.
The regulator has been trying to reduce the prevalence of situations in which suppliers forcibly install prepayment meters as a means of collecting debts from energy users.
The latest figures show that there was a 15 per cent fall in the number of prepayment meters being forcibly installed last year but the watchdog wants to see the overall numbers continue to fall in 2019 and beyond.
“Energy is an essential service, and suppliers must take particular care with those customers who are less able to manage and pay for their energy,” said Mary Starks from Ofgem in a statement.
“We are pleased that suppliers are making such good progress on getting extra help to vulnerable customers that need it, for example by making their bills easier to access or read.
“However, some suppliers are simply not keeping up with the rising numbers of customers who owe them money. It’s imperative that suppliers move quickly and efficiently to help struggling customers manage paying back their debts, or risk pushing them further into hardship.”
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Almost one in three people living across Britain will rely on some form of borrowing to cover the costs of Christmas.
Consumers across Scotland are being urged not to let their financial situation deteriorate drastically through an overreliance on debt this Christmas.
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