Support for a UK campaign group that is urging consumers to cancel direct debit payments for energy bills “doubles every week” amid growing public anger over rising domestic fuel prices.
Don’t Pay UK, founded six weeks ago, said 70,000 people have pledged to suspend direct debits since October 1, when a big increase in energy bill payments is expected.
With local groups promoting his campaign in the city including London, Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, he said he has received inquiries from grassroots organizers for 1.6 million flyers, while his Twitter followers are more than tripled from 22,000 to 79,000 in the past week.
However, consumer and charity groups have warned consumers that the end of direct debits could force them to use more expensive prepayment meters or damage their credit records.
“The cancellation of the direct debit. . . remove you from any existing payment plan [such as a fixed-rate tariff or debt repayment plan] and you will lose the discount by adding 7 to 8% to your energy bills, “said Gemma Hatvani, founder of the Facebook Energy Support and Advice UK group.
Hatvani’s group is campaigning for the government to issue more targeted aid to low-income families, but fears that a non-payment protest would threaten people’s finances.
“If you can’t afford to pay your bills, it’s best to communicate with your energy supplier. If you do not have debt, even if the companies do not advertise it, asking to switch to a variable direct debit means that you will only pay for the energy you consume each month and you can try to cut your bills by reducing consumption “.
Energy regulator Ofgem will announce the next price cap update at the end of August. In May, after Ofgem said early indications were that the energy price cap would rise to £ 2,800 from £ 1,971, the government announced a £ 15bn support package.
But as gas prices have soared in recent weeks, energy consultancy Cornwall Insight has predicted that the limit could exceed £ 3,300 and exceed £ 3,600 by January, when the next review is due.
National Energy Action, a charity, says 8 million households in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are at risk of falling into energy poverty.
The bumper profits of energy groups have fueled public anger over national bills. BP this week posted its highest quarterly profit in 14 years and announced a 10% increase in its dividend. Last week Shell reported breaking profit records for the second consecutive quarter.
Becky from West Dunbartonshire, a Don’t Pay supporter, told the FT: “My energy bill is £ 217. [and is] it is expected to go up again in October which means I will pay more for my energy than for my mortgage.
The campaign group compared its demands for mass non-payment of energy bills with the refusal of millions of people to pay the electoral tax in the 1980s, which contributed to its abolition. However, experts said there are differences that have had major repercussions for consumers.
“Canceling direct debit means suppliers. . . start the debt collection process, “said Matthew Cole, founder of the Fuel Bank Foundation, a charity that issues vouchers to people struggling to pay with prepayment meters.” If you’re on a smart meter, you might pass remotely to prepay, “he said, although suppliers would need a magistrate’s warrant to do so.
UK households will receive the £ 400 government grant for energy bills on half-yearly installations from October, with subsidized households receiving additional aid. Activists say this will not be enough for those struggling to pay.
Don’t Pay said: “The government can intervene at any time between now and October 1 to avert the catastrophe that awaits millions of people this winter.”