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Simple tariffs are necessary but it’s high prices that are “crippling budgets”

17 May 2013

Citizens Advice has warned that while a more simple energy market and easier ways to switch will help people understand the pricing system it won’t tackle the fundamental problem of high prices as the Government announces new energy plans.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Complex tariffs and pricing are shutting people out of the energy market and exacerbating distrust of suppliers. It is good that we will have a much more simple system which encourages switching but it is the price of fuel that is crippling budgets. Moving people onto the cheapest deal will help but as many can't even afford the lowest priced tariff, energy suppliers must make every effort to keep prices as low as possible.

“We want more of the Government’s ECO¹ scheme – which helps people with fuel costs and makes homes more energy efficient – to be spent on the fuel-poor. That would help to tackle the 4.5 million households in fuel poverty.”

“It's often the elderly, those on low incomes and people who don't have access to the internet who struggle to tackle unnecessarily large energy bills.  We know from our energy projects through bureaux that with some help and support people can get to grips with their bills and become much more confident in dealing with energy suppliers. A properly funded network to help vulnerable people reduce their energy bills is a welcome addition to successful initiatives, like Energy Best Deal and Big Energy Saving Week, but it is only one element of a solution in efforts to fight fuel poverty.”

Citizens Advice runs Energy Best Deal which helps those on a low income get to grips with their energy bills. Of those who went to an Energy Best Deal session in 2011/12:

  • Over 75% of low earners said they would take action to cut their gas and electricity bills following the advice they had received.
  • 1 in 2 people said they would contact their energy supplier to try to get a better deal.
  • Over a third planned to look at other energy companies’ prices.
  • A fifth said they would get more advice on using less energy at home.

Notes to editors

  1. The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is a government scheme to help people with fuel costs and support the installation of energy efficiency measures in low-income households and properties that are harder to treat. Citizens Advice is concerned that less than half of ECO funding is ring fenced for fuel-poor households, meaning that many of the most vulnerable will be left without help.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see
  4. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.9 million problems from April 2011 to March 2012. For full 2011/2012 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  5. Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
  6. Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,500 service outlets across England and Wales.