Citizens Advice says many of those battling with the cost will have to disconnect regularly during the coldest months of the year
More than two million people with a prepayment meter could have their gas and electricity cut off this winter because they cannot afford to top up.
Citizens Advice says it expects this to be its busiest ever winter for helping people who cannot afford to top up their prepayment meter. Its analysis reveals that last year 1.7 million people disconnected at least once a month.
Its warning comes just as energy suppliers have been allowed to restart forced installations of prepayment meters after past controversy. And 800,000 people went more than 24 hours without gas and electricity, unable to make a hot meal or take a warm shower, because they couldn’t afford to top up.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our frontline advisers are helping more people than ever who can’t pay their energy bill. Record numbers are in debt to their supplier and millions with a prepayment meter are too often going without heating and hot meals because they can’t afford to top up.
“The government has not provided new energy bill support for those in need and has run out of time to develop the long-term approach it promised by April 2024. Without immediate action, we risk re-running this same crisis every winter.”
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Peter Smith, director of policy at fuel poverty group National Energy, said: “Households underheating their homes can be dangerous both physically and mentally, and even fatal. Prepayment meter customers, in particular, are at risk of not being able to top up. They have had to pay dearly from day one of the energy crisis and are still facing energy bills almost double what they were at the start of it, two years ago.”
An Ofgem spokesman said: “Ofgem shares the concerns of Citizens Advice about the issue of rising debt and customers self-disconnecting from their energy supply amid the wider cost of living pressures. We already have introduced tougher rules to make sure that energy companies do more to spot the signs when a customer may be struggling and step in to offer support, including working out affordable payment plans and providing emergency credit to reduce the risk of self-disconnection.
“We work closely with Citizens Advice and other consumer groups and charities to address the issues people are facing and we will continue to explore more options to help struggling and vulnerable customers.” Vulnerable customers can sign up for assistance via the free priority services register via the Ofgem website.