Friday 21 June 2019 12:01 am

Households face £172m bill after slew of energy suppliers fail

The head of Citizens Advice has called on the government to act as households face a £172m bill after 11 suppliers collapsed.

Gillian Guy said consumers should not be left to bail out the industry when companies go out of business.

Read more: Energy supplier owed £12m to customers when it went out of business

She has said the government should use an upcoming white paper to “close the gap in protections and limit the cost to consumers of any future supplier failures.”

A whole slew of companies have gone bust in the last year and a half, leaving them unable to pay several industry bills.

The largest missing payments are those for renewable energy generation. But funds for infrastructure and gas and electricity meters also have holes.

Analysis from the consumer champion shows £172m of payments spread out over the industry. Households are facing the lion’s share of these costs through higher bills.

This will hit customers regardless of what supplier they get their gas and electricity from.

Bailiffs called in

Citizens Advice also warned that over-zealous administrators are going after customers for the money they owe to the failed suppliers.

“This leads to people, including those in vulnerable circumstances, being contacted by debt collectors and asked for sums they can’t afford at very short notice.”

Citizens Advice has helped more than 1,000 people with debts they owed to failed suppliers since January last year.

One pensioner had been threatened with bailiffs over a £350 debit they had racked up.

Building up credit or debit with a supplier is not unusual in the industry.

Read more: Ofgem slaps suppliers Economy Energy and E with £850,000 fine for competition breaches

“It’s worrying that consumers, including those in vulnerable circumstances, are facing aggressive debt collection practices at the hands of administrators. Such cases fall outside our remit,” said Energy Ombudsman chief executive Matthew Vickers.

Vickers said the Ombudsman was working with regulator Ofgem to find a solution.