Unpaid bills pile pressure on household budgets

  • 6.9 million bills* missed in past six months, says MoneyExpert.com research

Household budgets across the country are being squeezed to breaking point with millions of bills going unpaid in the past six months alone, according to new research by MoneyExpert.com.

The independent financial comparison website says as many as 6.9 million bills went unpaid since June last year and warns that many more people’s finances could begin to feel the effects as energy prices begin to rise again and credit becomes increasingly hard to come by.

The MoneyExpert.com figures show that of all household bills people are most likely to overlook their council tax bill, with a staggering 2.3 million** people – around one in twenty adults – claiming to have paid their council tax late or not at all in the past six months.

However people are also struggling to pay other household bills such as gas and electricity, telephone and rent payments. At least 1.39 million*** people said they struggled to pay either a gas or electricity bill on time in the second half of last year.

And MoneyExpert.com warns that the number of people who pay late could rise in 2008 as the nation braces itself for what is predicted to be a difficult year financially. Npower has already increased the cost of supplying energy by some 15 per cent, adding as much as £150 to the typical annual energy bill. Other major suppliers are likely to follow suit this month.

The comparison website says people who are under strain from missing their bills should take action now or risk potentially damaging their credit rating.

Sean Gardner, Chief Executive of MoneyExpert.com, said: "For some time we have been waiting to see how the financial squeeze would affect the average household. Nearly seven million unpaid household bills is a fairly conclusive sign that we are feeling the effects."

"Paying one bill late is not something to panic about. But if you find this is becoming something of a habit then you need to take action. Missing bills can have serious consequences, whether it’s losing a service altogether or even ending up in court."

"While interest rates have stopped climbing there are plenty of other factors that could make life even tougher for some people. With energy prices rising and credit becoming harder to come by, there could be plenty of normal people who will find paying even their basic household bills a daunting prospect in 2008."

Around three per cent of people have missed an electricity bill despite regular price cuts by power suppliers in 2007. Around 926,000**** telephone bills went unpaid in the past six months, accounting for around two per cent of the GB adult population.

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,082 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th – 21st December 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Figures grossed up by Citigate Dewe Rogerson using GB adult population figure of 46,300,400 (Office of National Statistics)
** 5% of GB population – figure grossed up to 2.315 million by Citigate Dewe Rogerson using GB adult population figure of 46,300,400 (Office of National Statistics)
** 3% of GB population – figure grossed up to 1.39 million by Citigate Dewe Rogerson using GB adult population figure of 46,300,400 (Office of National Statistics)
**** 2% of GB population – figure grossed up to 926,000 by Citigate Dewe Rogerson using GB adult population figure of 46,300,400 (Office of National Statistics)

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