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Crunch time ahead for households as more miss payments

Written by: Emma Lunn
Which? is warning that households across the country could be heading for increased financial pressures in January.

According to Which?’s Consumer Insight tracker, an estimated 1.9 million households missed or defaulted on at least one mortgage, rent, loan, credit card or bill payment in the past month.

Missed payment rates generally tend to be lower in the lead up to the festive period and then peak in January when people need to pay back their Christmas expenses as well as their usual household bills.

Which? research this time last year showed an estimated 1.7 million households missing at least one payment – but that number shot up to 2.5 million in January 2022.

The consumer group is concerned that these figures could repeat themselves again in the coming weeks, with many households in an even weaker position to cope with the combined pressures of Christmas and the cost of living crisis.

In the past month, Which? found that renters were more likely to miss a housing payment (6.4%), than mortgage holders (2.5%). Of those surveyed, 3.1% reported having missed a loan or credit card payment and 4.6% reported having missed a bill payment.

The most common type of bill missed was energy, at 2.3% of households, followed by council tax (1.9%), phone (1.6%) and broadband (1.4%).

Just under six in 10 (56%) people made at least one financial adjustment – such as cutting back on essentials, selling items or dipping into savings – in the past month to cover essential spending.

This is a significant increase on the four in 10 (42%) seen this time last year, but lower than the peak of two-thirds (65%) making adjustments in September 2022.

Which? is concerned that millions of households could be facing a financial crunch in the New Year as they struggle both with outstanding Christmas payments and the rising cost of living.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “With 1.9 million households missing important payments in the run up to Christmas, we’re worried that many more people could be facing financial crisis in January – as the credit repayments pile up and the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

“As so many people face financial hardship, Which? is calling on businesses in essential sectors like food, energy and broadband providers to do more to help customers get a good deal and avoid unnecessary or unfair costs and charges during this crisis.”

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