Nearly one in two fear they can't pay energy bills

Bulb and money

Energy bill worries are plaguing consumers with 43% saying they are worried they cannot meet their next fuel bill, according to a survey from Citizens Advice.

In November 2011, eight times as many people also asked for help with their energy bills from Citizens Advice Bureaux compared with the same time the previous year.

The charity has also dealt with over 500 fuel-related queries each day in the last three months.

"We know hikes in prices have put extra pressure on people's budgets at a time when money is already tight. Day in day out, our bureaux are helping people who can't afford their fuel bills," says Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy.

In a bid to combat high fuel prices this winter, households are turning on the heating less - with one in six consumers planning to only heat half or less of the rooms in their house, according to Consumer Focus.

Price drops too little, too late

Citizen's Advice's findings come after a raft of price cuts from the main energy providers.

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EDF Energy will cut its gas prices by 5% from 7 February; nPower is also reducing its gas prices by 5% from 1 February and SSE is reducing its gas prices by a slightly lower 4.5% from 26 March. British Gas, meanwhile, has cut its electricity costs 5% with immediate effect and E.ON will reduce its electricity bills by 6% from 27 February.

In spite of these price drops, industry insiders claim energy suppliers are not doing enough to help consumers. Despite households using far more gas in winter months none of the gas price cuts will come into effect until February at the earliest. And none of the main suppliers have cut prices on both fuels. British Gas, in particular, has come under criticism for only reducing its electricity costs.

"Households use far more gas than electricity in the winter to heat their homes and people want more help with that portion of their bills," says Mark Todd, director of price comparison service Energyhelpline.

As part of Big Energy Week, commencing 16 January, Guy urges consumers to seek help and ensure they are on the best energy tariff possible.

"We're worried that some people are struggling unnecessarily because they're not on the best deal; live in homes that haemorrhage heat or are not getting all of the financial help available to them."

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Your Comments

Congratulations to Citizens Advice for this initiative to offer help and advice to consumers faced with rising energy bills.
However, a charitbale organisiation should not be left to pick up the pieces utility firms' failure to deliver easy to undersatnad information.  These firms need to do much more to simplify their billing process and rebuild consumer trust. With so much discontent in the energy industry at present there has never been a better time for such firms to focus on their internal and external communications.
If you're interested, I've blogged about this in more detail here -