Poorest energy customers need debt holiday, says Citizens Advice

gas meter Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption 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.

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