Our energy bills have doubled since 2021. Energy suppliers knew this would mean millions wouldn't be able to pay – so they've been hoarding everyone else's cash to fund their operations.
With millions of households unable to keep up with their bills, total consumer debt – the money owed to suppliers – has now soared to £3.6 billion.
This is why Chancellor Jeremy Hunt u-turned on his planned 1 April energy price hike. Suppliers threatened him that another price increase would ‘swamp’ the market with consumer debt and leave some at risk of going under.
They got what they wanted, another government bail-out with Hunt announcing the £2,500 cap will stay until the end of June.
But they weren't waiting around for the government to step in.
Ahead of the winter, energy suppliers raised £9 billion of customer credit to keep their books balanced. Today, they're still holding onto £7 billion of our cash – £5 billion more than this time last year.
They knew millions of households wouldn’t be able to keep up with the extortionate prices they were charging, so they’ve turned to those who can – or just about can – keep up by hiking direct debits and placing them into credit.
As Christine Farnish, until recently a board member at energy market regulator Ofgem, said:
“Energy firms are allowed to put their metaphorical hand into a customer’s pocket and use advance customer payments to fund their own businesses.
“It’s my guess that hard-pressed families have no idea that part of their energy direct debits are used to provide cheap financing for their supplier, rather than actually paying for energy consumed.”
Energy customers are sold on signing up for a direct debit because it helps us manage our bills. Suppliers say they’ll build up your credit ahead of the winter months, when you spend more on energy, to keep your payments balanced over the year.
Yet, Ofgem figures reveal nearly one million energy customers had their direct debits more than doubled between February and April alone last year – before the so-called energy crisis.
They knew what was coming. And, to protect their bottom line, started using our cash as an interest-free loan to keep their books balanced.
And it’s going to get worse. We're all turning off the heating for the warmer months, but those on direct debits will unwittingly continue propping up the energy firms, racking up huge credit levels beyond what's needed for next winter.
We can’t let them do this again. It’s our money, it should be in our pockets – not theirs.
We have to take back our credit. Take control of your own money and, together, we can take down this rigged system.
Use our how to guides for all major energy firms to find out how to get your credit back. Sign up with your email below to get involved in our campaign!