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Fears about winter fuel bills on the rise

Fears about winter fuel bills on the rise

Category: Gas and electricity

Updated: 23/10/2013
First Published: 23/10/2013

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This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau around 4 in 5 low income households are worried about their winter fuel bills, which could leave many living in uncomfortably cold homes during the months ahead.

Winter fuel bills are already a huge strain for a fifth of low income households but the latest figures, released today, show just how concerned people are. Perhaps even more worryingly, two in five of those in receipt of help from the Energy Best Deal project, designed to help reduce the energy bills of the poorest households in the country, still won't be able to heat their homes to a comfortable level.

In a separate study, this time by the Debt Advisory Centre (DAC), it was found that 8% of people are already in arrears with their gas and electricity bills – a figure that's doubled since March this year – and that's before price hikes and the cold winter weather have a chance to set in.

And it's set to get worse. In the last two weeks three major energy providers have announced plans to increase their rates with the rest of the big six expected to follow suit, whilst Scottish Power has also confirmed that it'll be removing its cheapest tariff from tomorrow.

"It's very worrying that such a large number of people are struggling with their bills already," said Ian Williams of DAC. "The onset of winter and increases of up to 10% in gas and electricity bills are likely to drag even more people into debt … and many families could face the choice of heating or eating," he warned.

Both the Citizens Advice Bureau and DAC are encouraging people to shop around and switch to a better deal, while gas and electricity regulator Ofgem has announced new rules whereby customers must be given a 42-49 day window before the end of their fixed term contract to decide if they want to stay or switch.

This change means consumers will be able to leave a fixed term contract up to six weeks early without penalty, and is a welcome move for many who are already feeling the pinch.

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