The number of UK households that owe money to energy suppliers has risen by 300,000 this year with a total of nearly £400 million owed ahead of the winter months.
Price hikes throughout the year contributed to the amount of collective debt in the UK to hit £393 million in October – an increase of almost 25% from the previous year.
By this time of year, households are expected to be in credit ahead of increased consumption during the winter months, but research by consumer website uSwitch found a tenth, 2.93 million, were in debt to supplier, owing an average of £134 each.
Energy prices have been increasing for two years, in line with wholesale costs, which has led to some Big Six firms hiking prices twice this year.
Fuel poverty campaigners have said people are facing “huge anxiety” this winter and are concerned about whether they can turn their heating on.
“Millions of people are approaching this winter with dread and will face unmanageable situations. Those who are repaying large or growing energy debts often don’t turn the heating on at all, despite knowing it could badly damage their or their families’ health,” said Peter Smith, the director of policy and research at National Energy Action.
Official forecasts predict that levels of fuels poverty in the UK could worsen in the latter months of the year as tariffs go up and consumption increases.