Not checking energy bills could mean debt for 1 in 3 Brits, says uSwitch

27 January 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
Almost on third of British households are at risk of getting into debt because they do not check their energy bills to ensure that they are accurate, according to research from

The study into Brits' approach to their energy bills revealed that despite the huge increase in the price of energy last year, just one in five households double-check their bill against their meter reading or previous bills to make sure they are not paying more than they should be.

Energy bills rose more than 40 per cent in 2008, which equates to an extra £381 added to the average bill, and by paying over the odds consumers could be increasing their risk of falling into debt, the comparison site warns.

Of those who do not check their energy bills, 19 per cent admitted that they do not understand them, while 28 per cent said that they could not be bothered to make sure they are only paying for the energy that they are using, and a further quarter simply trust that their bill is correct. believes that the energy companies are largely to blame for people's ignorance over their energy bills – there is more that the companies could do to make bills easier to understand, it says, such as providing vital information which can help them to cut their bills.

While energy industry regulator Ofgem is pressing gas and electricity providers to supply simplified bills and annual energy statements, says that this will be too late to help those consumers which are still struggling to pay for this winter's expensive bills.

There are around 6.8million households currently in debt to their energy provider, owing an average £144, which prevents them from being able to switch energy providers in search of a lower energy bills.

"Energy bills are a key link in the communication chain between suppliers and their customers. Unfortunately, for many consumers, this link is broken. As a result, they are not getting the information they urgently need to start bringing the cost of their energy down." said Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at

"Ofgem is working with the industry to simplify bills and to ensure that all customers get an annual energy statement. However, this will take time to bear fruit and so will not help consumers reduce this winter's heavy fuel bills.

"Consumers should help themselves by making sure that they check their bills regularly and provide their supplier with up-to-date meter readings.

"With energy prices so high basic steps, such as paying by direct debit, moving to an online plan and becoming more energy efficient, can pay dividends." she concluded.

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