Almost half of UK consumers worry they will not be able to afford their energy bills

December 2, 2013

With the cold weather upon us once again and energy providers raising their prices on an all too frequent basis, new research from Mintel finds that today a staggering 46% of Brits are worried that they will not be able to afford their energy bills.

In research looking at consumers’ attitudes towards energy in the home, Mintel finds that 53% of younger consumers, those aged between 16 and 34 years old, are the most concerned about not being able to pay their energy bills, together with women (52%). Regionally, concern peaks in the colder regions of the North West (51%) and the North and Scotland (49%) compared to 43% in the South East and East Anglia. And it is not just an issue for the nation’s worst off families, indeed, while concern is highest among lower income Ds (at 60%), payment is an issue for more than a third (35%) of better off AB consumers.

Today, almost six in ten (58%) Brits agree that it is important to regularly check they are on the best tariff, while 44% worry they are not on the best tariff. Overall, more than half (56%) admit that they find their energy bills confusing.

Jane Westgarth, Senior Retail Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Escalating domestic energy bills can take a large chunk of the household budget, particularly for low earners, so making it easier for people to manage their usage and spending will help to reduce the anxiety surrounding paying the bills. Schemes which allow people more options about ways to plan and manage their spending will help and energy companies could reduce the price differences between pre-payment and billed accounts. People find the appeal of fixing prices very compelling as it takes away some of the uncertainties about how their bills will change and reduces the concern that the direct debits might escalate or that bills will become unaffordable. So marketing that builds reassurance about being able to plan ahead and avoid unexpected bills will chime with people.”

Some 73% of Brits agree they should make their home as energy efficient as possible, but 48% say they worry that it will cost too much money to make their home energy efficient. Almost two thirds (65%) of Brits say that wasting energy in the home is a big concern for them.

Mintel’s research also shows that 16% of people with gas and electricity suppliers had changed both in the last 12 months. It also reveals that 20% of people with gas had changed supplier, as had 20% of those with electricity. Some 40% of people who have changed tariff but not supplier said they changed to get a fixed tariff. A quarter (25%) of these said they changed tariff because of a suggestion on their bill.

Furthermore, some 30% of people think it saves a lot of time to use a price comparison website for gas or electricity. Meanwhile, a fifth (21%) claim that comparison websites do not give you the whole picture. And it seems there is a definite mistrust of advisors – some 66% worry that an energy advisor doing a home visit may try to sell them things they don’t need.

Are consumers really interested in greener energy?

Today, 43% of consumers worry that using too much energy is bad for the environment, however, just under a quarter (24%) agree that it is worth paying more for greener energy. Some 29% believe worrying about the environment is the role of the government. Just one in twenty (5%) of those who had changed supplier said they said they had changed to get ‘greener’ energy.

“For the majority of consumers, acting to get greener energy is secondary to finding the best deal on price. While consumers are aware of environmental issues, this may not affect the way that they act or choose which power to buy. When it comes to the environment, many would prefer the state to make the big changes but do not necessarily think it is something they can influence themselves.” Jane concludes.

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