Citizens Advice Report On Energy Bills

Posted on Apr 08, 2024. by NTI

The number of households seeking help to deal with court action over their unpaid energy bills has almost doubled in the last year, according to data released by Citizens Advice last Friday (5 April)  The charity helped approximately 350 households who received a CCJ over unpaid bills in 2023, up from just under 180 in 2022.

Debts owed to energy firms now exceed £3bn, a figure which increased at a rate of £2.8million a day in the second half of last year figures from Ofgem show.  Some comfort may come in the fall in the price cap set by Ofgem, which came into effect last Monday and saw the “typical” customer’s bill fall £238 to £1,690 a year.

Citizens Advice are keen to draw the correlation between the increased use of legal action to recover debts since the regulator introduced restrictions on the forced installation of prepayment meters.  The number of CCJs are the highest the charity has recorded since 2019 and are understood to represent a fraction of the total number of judgments issued to recover energy debts.

Madison Stefanuik, a caseworker at Citizens Advice, said: “People are coming to us about this problem more and more often. It’s usually people who are struggling to make ends meet, often trying to prioritise rent and council tax. As a result, they’ve fallen behind on energy bills and have been hit with a CCJ.”

Stefanuik continued: “Since rules were tightened on prepayment meters, we’ve noticed some energy suppliers are increasingly using CCJs and sending in bailiffs to force customers to pay their debts.”

Daniel Portis, a deputy director at Energy UK, said “Given the pressures facing households, suppliers have pledged to go further than ever before in helping customers through tens of millions of pounds of discretionary support and voluntary debt commitments,”.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ofgem commented as well as the Pope being Catholic that “many people have been struggling to pay their energy bills” which could become “an enduring problem”. As a result, the regulator has launched a consultation on affordability to ascertain “what’s working, what is not and where are the gaps”.

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