Citizens Advice Scotland has called for more support for billpayers after a survey revealed that one in nine Scots think their energy bills are unaffordable.
The charity asked Scots to rate the affordability of their energy bills from 1 to 5. 12% of respondents answered with 1 or 2, indicating their bills are unaffordable.
Citizens Advice Scotland is now calling for reform of the changing energy market to assist struggling customers and protect them from “bill shocks.”
The consumer advocacy charity has outlined several key priorities for energy suppliers. These include charging fair prices and sending out clear and accurate bills. Customers should receive better debt support, and ability to pay should be central to any debt repayment plan. Customers should also be able to contact their supplier easily if they have questions about service or bills.
Energy suppliers should also ensure customers easy access to the Warm Home Discount scheme, which gives pensioners and recipients of some benefits money off their winter energy bills.
Additionally, vulnerable customers should receive better support, especially to take accurate and regular meter readings, so they’re not hit with inaccurate and high bills.
Dr Jamie Stewart, markets spokesperson at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “We are likely to see changes in the energy retail markets in the coming years.”
He cited the shakeup of the Big Six, with Ovo’s takeover of SSE, and the exodus of customers from the largest energy suppliers to small and mid-sized challengers, which often offer lower prices. Additionally, the Scottish Government has announced its ambition to create a publicly owned not-for-profit energy company by the end of the current Parliament in 2021.
“This comes at a time when the market itself has faced significant challenges, between January 2018 and November 2019, 16 companies exited the market. We also know that aspects of the market simply are not working for consumers, whether on affordability or service,” Stewart said.
Citizens Advice’s proposed priorities for suppliers “are not revolutionary, but are common sense and should be a standard part of any energy supplier’s business model,” he said.
“This isn’t just about cheaper bills, but better customer service and ensuring people who need extra help and support get it.”
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