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Consumers demand increase in energy bill support - as more than half say £400 is not enough

Today, Uswitch has released its Uswitch Energy Crisis Plan, in which it calls for Sunak and Truss to agree to boost support to households, and asks suppliers to commit to stop pushing customers onto prepayment meters this winter.

  • A third of households (32%) feel anxious about paying their energy bills [1] and 44% say knowing what help is available will help them prepare for the hikes [2]

  • Almost a fifth (18%) of households worry about being forced onto a prepayment meter [3]

  • More than half of consumers (55%) say the £400 support is not enough for the winter [4], with energy bills now predicted to rise 70% to over £3,500

  • Better support for energy bills is considered the most important issue for the two Tory leadership candidates, beating rising food costs and fuel duty [5]

  • The candidates must unite now to confirm extra support alongside the price cap announcement on August 26, say seven in ten households (71%) [6]

  • As part of its Uswitch Energy Crisis Plan released today, Uswitch calls for Sunak and Truss to agree to boost support to households, and asks suppliers to commit to stop pushing customers onto prepayment meters this winter.

More than half of households (55%) say the £400 government energy bill support is not enough to get through this winter with the price cap now predicted to hit £3,500 in October, reveals research by Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service. 

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will be crowned Conservative Party leader on September 5 — ten days after the new level of the energy price cap is announced on August 26.

But consumers can’t wait. With 44% saying that knowing what help is available will help them prepare for the hikes [2], seven in ten people (71%) want to know where the two candidates stand on the issue by August 26 [6].

A third (32%) say they are feeling anxious about paying their energy bills this winter, with 884,000 households saying they have already missed payments to their supplier [3]. 

A fifth of households (18%) say they are worried about being forced to move to a prepayment meter this winter, with more than one million households saying their provider has already started the process [3].

The £400 energy bill support — announced in May — was calculated on the basis of Ofgem’s prediction that the price cap was likely to rise to £2,800. Experts now believe the price cap could hit £3,500 in October, meaning that there is a potential additional £700 shortfall for households to find.

Uswitch is calling for the universal £400 support to be increased to at least £600, with the payments spread across the six coldest months of the year. Payments to vulnerable households should also rise from £650 to £950, with the extra £300 being paid in January when energy use is highest. If current volatility results in an even higher price cap, support would need to increase proportionately. 

Providers must also commit to a moratorium on forced installations of prepayment meters for customers who are struggling to pay their bills. Prepayment meters are the most expensive way to pay for energy, and can lead struggling households to ‘self-disconnect’, by forcing them to choose between heating and lighting or food. 

Uswitch Energy Crisis Plan: immediate measures

  • Increase universal £400 energy bill support to at least £600 (if the cap proves to be higher, the support should reflect this);

  • Boost payments to vulnerable households from £650 to £950; and

  • Halt forced installations of prepayment meters over the winter. 

Longer-term solutions outlined in the plan include recommendations to reform the wholesale market, insulate the nation’s homes, and incentivising suppliers to innovate and offer better deals.

Uswitch.com is calling on Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to work together to pledge improved energy support action before the new price cap level is announced on August 26 so households know where they stand for winter.

Richard Neudegg, director of regulation at Uswitch.com, comments: “It is absolutely clear that urgent measures are needed to get everyone through this winter, while a long-term roadmap for how policymakers might solve the crisis is put in place. 

“The government did the right thing by stepping in with wide-reaching support to try to help ease the blow. However, this support now looks like a severe under-estimation of what consumers need.

“We are suggesting the planned £400 energy bill support should rise to at least £600 for all customers to reflect the new reality, while payments to vulnerable households should increase from £650 to £950, with the extra £300 to be paid in January, when energy use is highest.

“Households need clarity to help them plan for the most expensive winter in living memory. If the cap ends up being at the higher end of predictions, the support should reflect that and increase proportionately.

“This winter, suppliers should commit to stopping forced installations of prepayment meters for customers who are struggling to pay their bills. For those in vulnerable households, the lights must stay on this Christmas.

“The country simply cannot wait for the new Prime Minister to be selected. We call on both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to urgently work together and agree on extra energy bill support before the new price cap level is announced on August 26.”

Find out how you could save with Uswitch in the new cost-of-living hub here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Sarika Patel
Phone: 07815 635259
Email: sarika.patel@rvu.co.uk
Twitter: @UswitchPR

Notes
Research conducted online by Opinium, 19th to 22nd July 2022, among 2,001 residents of Great Britain, Weighted to be politically and nationally representative.
1. Respondents were asked, ‘Thinking about how you are planning for the higher energy bills this autumn, which of the following statements most closely matches your situation?’ 29% of respondents said ‘I’m feeling anxious - I’m already struggling to pay my bills’. 3% of respondents said ‘I’m extremely anxious as I’ve already missed several payments’. 29% + 3% = 32% of respondents are feeling anxious or extremely anxious.
2. Respondents were asked, Thinking about how you are planning for the higher energy bills this autumn, which of the following statements most closely matches your situation? 44% responded: ‘Knowing as soon as possible what Government support is available will help me prepare for the increases’
3. Respondents were asked ‘Are you worried that your supplier will force you onto a prepayment meter this winter?’ 18% of people were worried, including 5% who said their supplier had already started the process.
4. Respondents were asked, ‘Is £400 support going to be enough for your household to cope with this increase in energy bills?’ 55% said ‘No’. 23% said ‘Yes’. 22% said ‘Don’t know’.
5. Respondents were asked, ‘Thinking about the Conservative leadership election, what are the most important policies the candidates should urgently address even before they get into office? Select the three most important issues for them to address.’ 47% of respondents said ‘Better support for households for their energy bills’. 41% said ‘Reducing food costs‘. 39% said ‘A cut in fuel duty’.
6. Respondents were asked ‘Do you want to know where the final two Tory leadership candidates stand on extra support for energy bills by 26 August (when the new price cap level is announced)?’ 71% said ‘I do’. 

About Uswitch - saving you money for 20 years

Uswitch is the UK’s top comparison website for home services switching. We’ve saved consumers £2.5 billion off their energy bills since we launched in September 2000, and also help people find a better deal on their broadband, mobile and TV.

Uswitch is part of RVU, a global group of online brands with a mission to empower consumers to make more confident home services, insurance and financial decisions.