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Over a million UK households in debt to utility firms

Kit Klarenberg
Written By:
Kit Klarenberg

More than one million UK homeowners are in arrears with their gas or electricity bills, owing suppliers £161 on average, research has revealed

The survey by Gocompare.com Energy found that of the 1.4 million people with utility bill debts, 29 per cent haven’t contacted their supplier to discuss their situation, and are simply ignoring the debt in the hope it will go away. Only 11 per cent of those struggling to pay their energy bill have contacted their supplier for help.

The survey suggests the average amount owed is £161, while 47 per cent owe up to £100, 32 per cent have energy bill debts of between £101 and £300, and 15 per cent owe over £300.

Just over a fifth (21 per cent) said their energy supplier has been helpful in dealing with the debt, and they had managed to agree a repayment plan with them.  However, 16 per cent thought their energy provider had been very unsympathetic and 15 per cent 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 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 information on how to reduce winter energy bills, visit the YourMoney.com guides; How to keep winter costs down and Tips for cutting winter energy bills.