Energy suppliers warned about letting households rack up £100s in debt

Published by Helen Knapman on 16 October 2017.
Last updated on 16 October 2017

An energy bill with lightbulb and change on top

Energy suppliers have been warned by the regulator to “do more” to help households in debt.

The calls come after new research published by Ofgem has found that customers are building up on average over £600 in unpaid gas and electricity bills before suppliers step in to help them manage paying it back.

Ecotricity, First Utility, iSupplyEnergy, Npower and Utility Warehouse have been named as the worst suppliers for this practice when it comes to electricity bills, with Ofgem saying these firms let customers build up over £800 on average in electricity debt before they start paying it off.

When it comes to gas bills, Npower, Spark Energy and Utility Warehouse have been named and shamed for allowing customers to build up an average debt of over £800.

‘Industry needs to do more to support customers’

Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem’s senior partner for consumers and competition says: “When suppliers let big debts accrue, it’s a sign that they’re not spotting debt or stepping in early enough to help customers who are struggling to pay bills.

“We want industry to demonstrate that it is identifying and supporting these customers in a timely way. We will be monitoring suppliers to make sure they make long-term improvements on bringing down debt.”

However, the regulator’s report has found some improvements; it says the number of customers in debt to their supplier has fallen over the past year by 9% to 971,362 for gas customers, and by 3% to 1,195,635 for electricity customers.

The number of disconnections for debt also fell to 210, down from a peak of 8,300 a decade ago.

For tips on beating debt, plus the contact details of organisations that can help, read the Moneywise guide to climbing out of debt in 2017.

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