Domestic consumers urged to avail of debt support offered by energy suppliers
The Utility Regulator recently published the results of its third annual Domestic Consumer Insight Tracker survey that provided further evidence regarding the financial difficulties energy consumers continue to face.
The headline results include:
More consumers are spending more on their energy bills. 43% of consumers spent over £100 a month on electricity in 2022, compared to 13% in 2021. For gas, the increase was greater, with 48% of consumers spending over £100 a month in 2022, compared to 9% in 2021.
The number of consumers that have gone without other essentials to pay for their energy at least once in the previous year has almost tripled between 2021 and 2022. For electricity, it increased from 4% in 2021 to 11% in 2022 and for gas it increased from 3% to 10%.
A large increase in the number of consumers struggling to pay their energy bills. Those that sometimes, often or always struggled to pay their energy bills increased from 14% in 2021 to 43% in 2022 for electricity consumers and from 15% to 40% for gas consumers.
More consumers are reducing their electricity and gas usage. In 2022, 85% of electricity consumers and 87% of gas consumers reduced their usage, which compares to 34% and 28% respectively in 2021.
Barbara Cantley, the Utility Regulator’s Interim Director of Consumer and Business Protection explains further:
“These results are unfortunately not surprising as we are fully aware of the continued difficulties that consumers are facing regarding their energy bills. Whilst international wholesale energy prices have dropped in recent months, prices are still well above the historic average.
“I would encourage any customer that is struggling to pay their energy bill, or is in debt, to contact their supplier for help. Through their regulated licence conditions, energy suppliers are required to support you in a number of ways, including:
working with you to develop a manageable repayment plan, this is based on your individual ability to pay;
providing additional protection to consumers who are of pensionable age, disabled or chronically ill; and
providing energy efficiency advice which may reduce your usage and therefore your overall bill.
“Over the past two years, we have enhanced the range of protections available for consumers. We have reminded energy suppliers of their regulatory obligations to protect customers in debt and our compliance work ensures suppliers are doing all they can to support their customers. We also continue to monitor supplier behaviour and will act to investigate areas of non-compliance.”
A video has been published on the Utility Regulator’s website, providing debt advice for consumers on the help and support available from energy suppliers.
The Consumer Council’s website has energy advice for consumers and also provides an independent energy price comparison tool to help consumers save money. The NI Energy advice line also offers free comprehensive advice on saving energy in the home and energy efficiency grants. NI Direct also provides a range of relevant information.
A number of agencies can provide free and independent advice, including Advice NI,Money and Pensions Serviceand Christians Against Poverty.