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Consumers support energy supplier credit balance protections, survey finds

The survey was run by YouGov on behalf of Centrica. Image: Centrica.

The survey was run by YouGov on behalf of Centrica. Image: Centrica.

The majority of consumers want energy suppliers to protect their credit balances, according to a new survey from YouGov commissioned by Centrica.

It found that 86% of consumers want their balances protected, while 13% were unsure and just 1% didn’t think balances should be protected.

The survey follows more than 30 energy suppliers collapsing since the beginning of 2021, as part of a wider energy crisis driven in large part by surging gas prices.

Some suppliers have used customers’ credit to fund unsustainable commercial models, said Centrica, and when they have subsequently collapsed, more than £500 million of UK consumer money has disappeared.

The cost of supplier collapses represents 10% of Ofgem’s recent price increase, with the cost of the ‘lost’ money adding to standing charge increases. The price cap jumped by 54% at the beginning of April, to £1,971.

“It is an outrage that the hard-pressed UK consumer is paying for the failure of energy suppliers, and we must make sure this never happens again, starting with protecting our customers’ hard-earned cash,” said Chris O’Shea, chief executive of Centrica.

“At the end of last year, we saw supplier after supplier going bust. Pretty much all of them had used their customers’ money to try and keep their businesses going. Some say they use deposits to pay for energy in advance, but it’s time the public knew that energy is actually paid for after customers use it. So, there is absolutely no excuse for taking customers’ money up front and not keeping it safely to one side.”

Of those surveyed, 85% of Octopus customers and 91% of E.ON customers would like to see their providers safeguard their balances, with the latter company having stated that it supports calls to ring-fence deposits.

The call from O’Shea to protect consumer balances was also heard as he presented evidence to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) select committee on Tuesday. It was one of a number of calls from the CEO for governmental and industry wide action to protect consumers as concern over the impact of further price increases in October grow.

In February, the company announced it was voluntarily protecting its consumers balances, and holds £294 million in a separate bank account which it uses for buying energy.

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