Prepayment energy customers have avoided using energy to alarmingly degrees amid intensifying cost of living pressures, according to price comparison and switching service Uswitch.com.
It has revealed that one in six prepayment customers have avoided using energy altogether for two days or more, which is a third up compared to this time last year.
This follows an escalating energy crisis which has seen wholesale prices spike and dozens of suppliers exit the UK market, directly affecting over four million customers.
The report also suggested a fifth (21 per cent) have skipped hot meals because they cannot afford to top up, an increase of almost a quarter (23 per cent) on the proportion who did so at the same time last year.
Meanwhile, more than a third (35 per cent) have worn a coat, hat and gloves indoors to fend off the cold rather than putting the heating on, while nearly a fifth (19 per cent) have sat in the dark to avoid using energy.
In the UK, 4.5m energy customers use prepayment meters, which cost £56.40 more a year on average than a standard credit meter.
Prepayment energy prices tend to be higher, owing to the extra cost of running the infrastructure – with customers paying on average £97.40 a month compared to £92.70 for customers on a fixed deal with a standard meter.
Household bills for prepayment meter users will increase over £2,000 per year from April, rising by £708 to £2,017, with Ofgem hiking the consumer price cap over 50 per cent to reflect the realities of soaring gas prices.
The new findings from Uswitch suggest that the increase in the cost of living is already having an impact, with many prepayment meter customers already struggling with their energy bills, even before the cap rises in April by £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.
Nearly a sixth (13 per cent) of users on prepayment meters say they want to move to a traditional meter instead, while 16 per cent of people who have either not tried to move to a credit meter, or were not successful in switching over, did not realise it was even possible to move.
Uswitch.com urges people who want to move off a prepayment meter to talk to their supplier about whether it may be an option for them
Jean Hayes, community engagement lead at Uswitch.com said: “As the rapidly rising cost of living eats into many households’ budgets, it’s alarming to see that a sixth of people with prepayment meters have already felt compelled to avoid using their electricity for days at a time this year – and this is before the new energy price cap even takes effect. Prepayment meters often make energy more expensive than standard credit meters, so anyone who is finding it unaffordable should speak to their supplier and see if moving to a standard meter could be an option for them.”
The research was conducted by insight agency Opinium , which surveyed 500 prepayment meter users between 15 and February 21.