Over a quarter (27%) of household bill-payers say an increase of more than £10 a month in their energy bills could force them into debt.

The research by USwitch.com is just days ahead of an expected hike in the price cap which will be announced by the energy regulator, Ofgem, which is due to announce changes to the price cap on Friday (6th August).

The research found that almost a fifth of households (around 7 million) have struggled to pay for their energy over the past 12 months, and one in ten (11%) households say they could not cope with any increase in bills[.

Customers on Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) and prepayment meters will be directly affected by any increase in the price cap. Three-fifths of homes on these types of tariffs and meters say they are stressed at the thought of the price cap rising.

Households in one of the lowest income brackets (£20,000 and under) say they spend 10% of their after-tax income on energy bills. One in seven households (13%) earning less than £20,000 are also on prepayment meters – one of the most expensive ways of paying for energy – compared to just one in 50 (2%) of those earning more than £40,000.

The impact of an increase in April is already being felt by bill-payers, with a third of households saying their bills are higher than they were this time last year[4]. This may also be partly caused by lockdowns and people spending more time working from home, as a quarter of households (27%) say their energy use has gone up in the past year.

One in seven people (14%) often worry about paying their bills, and three fifths (61%) of younger consumers aged 18-34 are stressed at the thought of the price cap rising.

At the same time, three in ten households (30%) are planning to reduce their energy use this winter so they can afford their energy bills.

Three in ten people (30%) say they would reduce the temperature of the thermostat to save money, and one in seven people (13%) would turn off the heating altogether and 13% said they would cut down spending on essential food.

Justina Miltienyte, Energy Policy Expert at Uswitch.com, sid“Many people are already in a risky position financially, and it’s worrying that an increase of £10 per month in energy bills could push a quarter of households into debt.”

“Unfortunately those very circumstances are likely to happen this week as Ofgem announces the increase in the default tariff price cap.

“People on SVTs will be directly affected by any increase in the price cap.”