Debt help calls surge as energy prices rise

The Momentum UK Team 24 October 2013

The number of people seeking debt advice about bills has more than doubled after the recent price rise announcements.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) have reported a 55% increase in the number of people seeking online debt advice about bills since the first price rise alert from SSE on 10th October. More than 30,000 people sought advice online between the 10th and the 23rd, compared to 19,436 in the thirteen days before SSE’s announcement, and calls to the CAB have doubled.

CAB chief executive Gillian Guy commented on the findings:

“The huge number of people seeking advice since the price hikes started is a barometer of consumer fear about energy bills.

“Barely a day goes by without the bad news of another energy price increase. Price rises, just as temperatures start to drop, means people will see their bills this winter soar.”

She added that “households are finding it really difficult to cope with the increases in cost of living.”

On Thursday, ScottishPower became the latest provider to announce price rises; this is the fourth of the “big six” energy companies to do so, following British Gas, SSE and npower.

A separate survey shows that millions of families are falling behind on their utility bill payments, even before the price rises take effect and the cold weather begins. According to the Debt Advisory Centre, more than 4.5 million people say they are in arrears with 8% owing money on gas and electricity, and 9% behind with their water bills. The number of people in gas and electricity arrears has doubled since March this year.

Ian Williams of the Debt Advisory Centre said:

“It’s very worrying that such a large number of people are struggling with their bills already,

“The onset of winter and increases of up to 10pc in gas and electricity bills are likely to drag even more people into debt, and make problems worse for those who are already struggling to pay for gas and electricity.”