Household energy debt has hit a five-year high of £216 ahead of the winter, new research shows.
The average household debt is up 13 percent on the £190 figure seen at this time last year, and the number of homes that owe money to their supplier has risen from 2,800,000 to 3,200,000 – a rise of 11 percent.
The data, compiled by Uswitch.com, also found more than nine million households have no energy credit going into winter – the time of year when homes use the most power.
According to comparison site, customers should typically build up energy credit during the summer so they have a “war chest” to rely on for the coldest months.
Richard Neudegg, director of regulation at Uswitch, said: “Building up a war chest of around two months of energy credit is important as we head into winter, and it’s worrying that more than nine million households have no buffer against the coldest months.
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“Average household energy debt for autumn is at the highest level we’ve seen in more than five years.
“And with the price cap changing every three months – households are facing even more uncertainty this year as prices are expected to rise again in January.”
Ofgem’s energy price cap is forecast to increase again from £1,834 a year for an average household to £1,898 in January, a difference of 3.5 percent.
Two-fifths of those in arrears (40 percent) say their debt is higher than last year, and a quarter (28 percent) believe their position is about the same as 12 months ago.
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Nearly one in seven say they have moved from being in credit a year ago to being in debt now.
Meanwhile, more than half of households (53 percent) said they’re worried about how they will pay their energy bills this winter, with only a quarter (25 percent) saying they are unconcerned.
Mr Neudegg said: “If your energy account is going into debt or you are behind on your bill payments, speak to your provider as soon as possible.
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“They should be able to help you find a solution, such as working out a more affordable payment plan.
“You may also find you are eligible for additional support such as hardship funds and other energy help schemes.”
From British Gas to EDF, Britons who are struggling with costs may be able to claim up to £1,500 worth of energy bill support. To read the full list of options, click here.
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