24 December 2014
Last updated at 00:02
Those who use pre-payment meters often owe money on their bills
Ten million householders who use pre-payment energy meters should be given a debt “holiday”, says the charity Citizens Advice.
Unlike other customers, those with pre-payment meters cannot spread their payments throughout the year.
As a result they spend twice as much on winter gas bills as in the summer – and are therefore prone to debt.
One supplier – Scottish Power- said it had already introduced such a scheme last year.
However Citizens Advice said all suppliers should follow suit, and allow pre-pay customers to pay off debts in the summer period – when their bills are lower.
“A debt holiday would be a Christmas bonus for pre-pay customers,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice.
It might also prevent pre-payment customers being forced to turn off their central heating.
“Delaying payments for debts will mean those people struggling to afford heat and light don’t have to make severe cut-backs,” she said.
Citizens Advice said that during 2014 there had been a 66% increase in the number of people seeking online help for paying their bills.
An analysis of figures from the regulator, Ofgem, shows that 80% of households having payment meters installed are already in debt.