Heating debts are something both customers and providers, like Capital Plumbing & Heating Sheffield, have to worry about, the former moreso, as revealed by comparison website uSwitch.
According to a report from the company, nearly 3 million households could be in debt to their energy suppliers, even before winter rolled in recently, with approximately two in every five household worried about being able to pay their heating bills.
The research shows that the number of households that owe money went up by 12% in comparison to the preceding autumn, in spite of the hottest summer on record, with the recent price hikes blamed for the increase.
Energy debt in the UK has gone up from 2017 by £75 m, with households across the country accounting for £400m to energy suppliers. The research followed 55 price hikes from 32 suppliers from January to November, adding £900m annually to the energy bills of around 12m on standard variable tariffs.
Britain’s biggest energy supplier, British Gas, raised its prices twice in 2018, which the company attribute to a ‘sharp rise’ in wholesale energy costs. Estimations say that 3.5m customers on its dual-fuel standard variable tariff would, come October, be paying more £104 compared to the prices before the hikes on May.
At the end of summer is when most households pay their bills and end up in credit, in preparation for the coming winter, but 11% of energy bill payers revealed that they were actually in debt, owing their supplier money, which uSwitch calculated say an average of £134.
Rik Smith, uSwitch’s energy expert says that the time before winter is the time when it’s imperative for households to deal with their rising bills. He says that, with suppliers like Capital Plumbing & Heating Sheffield raising their prices, people needed to take action.
Unfortunately, according to the research, about 21% of its respondents were either hoping for prices to go down in time, or had no idea how to pay off their debt, while 3% believe that they could not pay back what they owe.
uSwitch’s advice is for speak with suppliers, who can help set up a repayment plan, offer energy saving advice, and, sometimes, provide free insulation or other grants to help out.