Energy companies have been urged by Citizens Advice to allow a “debt holiday” for their prepayment customers to prevent fuel rationing over the cold winter months, or cutting off the energy supply completely.
Customers on prepayment meters are unable to spread the extra cost their winter fuel bills across the spring and summer months, therefore the watchdog has advised they are far more likely to have problems keeping up their payments.
Citizen’s Advice said it saw a 66 per cent rise in the number of people seeking online help for problems paying fuel bills in the first three months of this year compared to the rest of 2013.
Citizens Advice’s chief executive Gillian Guy said: “A debt holiday would be a Christmas bonus for prepay customers. Delaying payments for debts will mean those people struggling to afford heat and light don’t have to make severe cut-backs.
“Energy suppliers have a real opportunity to help prepay customers this winter and begin to rebuild customers’ trust. Prepay customers can pay an average of £80 more a year on gas and electricity.”
A suggestion was made that alternative methods of topping up their meters should be made available such as text, online or over the phone which would mean customers avoiding having to visit shops to buy meter top-up in adverse winter weather conditions.