Almost half of UK consumers say their energy bill is their top spending priority this winter, ahead of their weekly shop and Christmas presents, according to a new poll.
The survey, commissioned by ethical energy supplier Co-operative Energy, reveals that 49.3% of consumers identify their energy bills as their single most important winter expenditure.
The finding puts bills far ahead of Christmas shopping and family weekly shops, both on 16%.
Significantly, the poll also finds that 46% of households are more concerned about being able to afford their winter energy bills this year than they were in 2013.
“What our latest research shows is that despite a supposed upturn in the economy, consumers are still fearful of their energy bills in the winter and that this remains a worry for them,” said Ramsay Dunning, group general manager of Co-operative Energy.
“Our findings indicate that bill payers are assigning more of their household budget to pay for their energy than they did two years ago. Over half of consumers are doing this compared to just 11% who are apportion less budget for energy than they did this time two years ago.”
The poll comes at a time when rising energy bills are a concern not just for homeowners, but also for the government. The UK’s big six energy suppliers are currently under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Market regulator Ofgem expects the energy giants’ profit margins to double over the next year while the UK’s energy bills are rising faster than almost anywhere else in the developed world.
Consumer confidence in the big six – British Gas, SSE, E.ON, EDF, Npower and Scottish Power – remains low after each significantly hiked their 2013 winter prices.
Recent figures from the energy ombudsman show that complaints to energy companies have hit record highs, with more than double the number of complaints lodged so far this year than in the whole of 2013.
The growing crisis has caused many customers to switch to smaller, more ethical suppliers, such as Good Energy and Ecotricity.
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