6 million customers in £449million credit to gas companies says moneysupermarket.com

10 November 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
Almost six million gas customers in the UK are in credit with their suppliers to the tune of around £449million, an average of £79 each, according to research conducted by moneysupermarket.com.

Despite numerous price rises from major energy providers this year, with the average household having to find an additional 47 per cent for their gas since January 2008, 79 per cent of those consumer which are in credit have not requested that this money be repaid to them.

When the amount that people are in debt to their gas provider is deducted from the total £449million credit, it emerges that gas companies have built up a cash float of almost £225million, moneysupermarket.com said.

Nearly two million households owe a collective £224million to their energy suppliers – an average of £126 per customer.

"Bill payers have borne the brunt of unprecedented increases to gas prices this year, and worse still, it has come at a time when we are all feeling the financial pinch." said Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com.

"Almost four fifths of consumers have made no attempts to ask for their money back from providers and this is worrying in the current financial situation."

Those who are not in debt to their supplier and think they are paying too much for their energy can look for a better deal and switch gas suppliers when they find one, but consumers who owe money to their current energy provider is trapped until they can clear the debt.

Moneysupermarket.com's research reveals that many people are not in the position to find the cheapest deal because they are trapped by their fuel debt, with one in six consumers admitting that they are not in a position where they are able to repay what they owe.

Meanwhile, a fifth said they will only repay the money if they are asked to do so, and 42 per cent have not acted to repay the money they owe because they believe that it will even out over time or when their direct debit payments are updated.

Mr Byrom added: "Some Brits will have the financial stability to leave cash ‘on float' with their supplier, but for many others the prospect of reclaiming their money will be very welcome, especially those with substantial amounts in their provider's pot.

"With the price of wholesale gas falling, customers shouldn't think they will see a fall in energy bills any time soon. The energy consumption we are likely to use over the winter months would have been bought in advance of recent gas price falls, so we may have to wait until the New Year before we see any change for the better."

Mr Byrom recommends that households reassess their direct debit regularly – every six months – to ensure they are not underpaying or overpaying for their utilities.

Those who are in credit should speak to their supplier about getting their money back, whilst those in debt should speak to them about managing their debt and setting up a realistic repayment plan.

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