Credit card dependency, energy price hikes, and unpaid bills: 2008 looks grim for UK consumers

11 January 2008 / by Verity G
British consumers are facing increasing debts and a gloomy start to 2008 after research revealed that millions of bills are going unpaid and a record one in ten people now admit to relying on credit cards to fund their day-to-day living costs.

A study commissioned by The Post Office found that a quarter of credit cardholders said they had started the New Year more dependent on credit than ever before with 41 per cent saying that they would be relying on their plastic to pay for groceries and other daily expenses.

Gary Fitton, the director of lending at the Post Office, explains: "Typically January is the time of year when people struggle with their money the most. Many people have over-stretched themselves over the Christmas period and have little choice but to use their credit card in the New Year."

The results have been echoed by a separate study from MoneyExpert.com which found that an estimated 6.9 million household bills were being either unpaid or paid late over the last six month period.

Sean Gardner, Chief Executive of MoneyExpert.com, comments: "For some time we have been waiting to see how the financial squeeze would affect the average household. Nearly seven million unpaid household bills is a fairly conclusive sign that we are feeling the effects."

At least 1.39 million people said they struggled to pay either a gas or electricity bill on time in the second half of last year and now consumers are being warned that, despite promises of further interest rate cuts, other factors such the continuing credit crisis is making it harder than ever for people to get loans and credit cards while the impending energy price hikes are likely to put even more of a strain on family finances.

Already npower has increased fuel prices by 15 per cent, adding as much as £150 to the average annual energy bill while industry insiders have indicated that E.ON and EDF are also set to announce their price rises for 2008.

MoneyExpert has advised concerned consumers who are struggling to pay their phone and fuel bills to take action now or risk potentially damaging their credit rating.



Around three per cent of people admit to having missed an electricity bill while 926,000 telephone bills, accounting for two per cent of the British population, went unpaid in the past six months.

Mr Gardner continues: "Paying one bill late is not something to panic about. But if you find this is becoming something of a habit then you need to take action. Missing bills can have serious consequences, whether it’s losing a service altogether or even ending up in court."

© Fair Investment Company Ltd