UK households owe their energy suppliers millions ahead of winter

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Households typically start the winter in credit with their supplier (Source: Getty)

Millions of British households are heading into winter indebted to their energy supplier, a consumer group has warned.

A total of 2.6m households owe £318m to their energy supplier, which is up nine per cent from the previous year, research from price comparison site uSwitch found.

Households that pay through direct debit typically build up credit over the summer months when bills are lower, but uSwitch said an unseasonably cold August could have turned the tables on customers as research found three in 10 had already turned their central heating on at that point.

Read more: Energy bills are now rising at their fastest in three years

Almost a third of those in debt (31 per cent) plan to pay it off by increasing their monthly direct debit, while a fifth (21 per cent) expect to pay it off in a lump sum. Nearly one in three (28 per cent) have no plan in place for repaying what they owe or say they cannot pay it back at all.

The research found just a quarter (25 per cent) plan to change their energy supplier within the next 12 months.

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch, said: “Households have suffered a barrage of price rises this year but they can turn the tables on the energy companies by voting with their feet, and save hundreds of pounds in the process. A cheaper tariff could mean the difference between shivering through the winter and potentially becoming ill, or having a warm home.

Read more: DEBATE: Will the proposed price cap on energy bills be good for consumers?

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