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More than one in ten consumers face unaffordable energy bills, CAS finds

Amer Ghazzal / Demotix/Demotix/Press Association Images

More than one in ten consumers face unaffordable energy bills, CAS finds

More than one in ten consumers in Scotland consider their energy bills to be unaffordable, according to new research by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

In a new report, based in tracking the attitudes of consumers in Scotland over three years, CAS found increasing numbers of customers moving away from traditional ‘big six’ energy companies towards smaller suppliers.

With 12 per cent describing their bills as unaffordable, it also found a decrease in the number of people using electricity to heat their homes, alongside a rise in the number using gas.

The results show that 73 per cent of Scottish residents use mains gas as their primary source of heat, while 17 per cent use electricity and six per cent rely on oil.

But while CAS said almost half of consumers could qualify for extra support through the Priority Service Register, only a quarter are actually enrolled.

Meanwhile there was not much change in attitudes towards energy companies, with 68 per cent of respondents saying their supplier made it easy to contact them, 64 per cent describing the language used in their energy bill as easy to understand and more than half willing to recommend their supplier to others.

CAS markets spokesperson Dr Jamie Stewart said: “It’s notable that more than one in ten consumers feel their bills are unaffordable. Our report highlights the key divide in the nation, with some appearing to manage the cost of energy while a significant proportion of society continue to struggle. We strongly believe that more needs to be done to ensure that the essential service of energy is affordable for everyone in Scotland.  

“That affordability question appears to be driving some consumers to switch from a traditional big six supplier to smaller, newer companies. However this comes against a backdrop of suppliers failing across the UK, with twelve companies failing between June 2018 to June 2019, affecting over one million consumers across the UK.

“The small fall in people using electricity and the increase in gas usage should also be considered carefully by policymakers. As mains gas remains the cheapest way to heat homes for most people, policy makers will have to make tough decisions about how we decarbonise household heating and how to support people with the associated costs.”

The survey was conducted between March and April in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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