PHOTO HOWARD MCWILLIAM
The number of families in debt to their energy supplier is rising, with around one in five households owing money, a study suggested. Collectively, Britons are estimated to owe £637m to energy firms, which is £159m more than last year's projections, comparison website uSwitch said. Some 20% of bill payers surveyed by the website, equating to more than five million households nationally, are in debt to their energy supplier after falling behind with payments or due to discrepancies between estimated bills and actual amounts. This figure is up from 14% when similar research was carried out last year. The latest survey of more than 2,000 bill payers in February found that the typical amount owed is £8 less than it was a year ago, at £123. But a recent string of price hikes by energy companies combined with the unseasonably chilly weather could see the size of people's energy debts shooting back up again, the study warned.