Salford, Manchester -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/10/2012 -- Debt management company Gregory Pennington (http://www.gregorypennington.co.uk/) has advised energy customers to keep track of their monthly energy bills and usage in order to reduce the likelihood of falling into energy debt.
The comments follow research from uSwitch.com, revealing that the average annual energy bill has increased from around £1,069 a year ago to £1,252 today. Even more cause for concern are the four million households across the UK who are currently in debt due to their energy bills - with each household facing an average energy debt of £131.
With the cost of gas and electricity rising at an ever faster rate in recent years, energy bills are a very real worry for many households - particularly in the current climate, in which tight budgets and squeezed incomes are a financial reality for many.
And yet people who fall into energy debt aren't necessarily having problems with their finances - some simply aren't managing their energy bills in the best possible way, and don't realise they're in debt until it's too late.
A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington commented:
"At a time when rising energy costs are a concern for many households, it's perhaps more important than ever to manage your energy bills well and make sure that you're on the best tariff.
"It's important to bear in mind that if you're on a fixed Direct Debit payment plan, it's up to you to make sure you're paying the right amount for the energy you use every month. Taking regular meter readings and keeping your supplier up to date with your energy usage is a good habit to get into. Making sure that you're paying enough for your gas and electricity now could help you to avoid falling into arrears on your bills further down the line - and perhaps only realising once you're sent your statement.
"If you have Direct Debits set up, you could consider paying a bit more than you need to for your energy every month, particularly in the winter when it's likely you'll use more to heat your home than expected. Paying that bit extra could also help you cover the cost of any price rises - and any 'credit' can be reclaimed in the future if you end up paying for more than you actually use.
"Reviewing your energy tariff is also important. Some providers will offer discounts if you take out a dual-fuel policy with them, for example, and setting up Direct Debits alone could knock some money off your overall energy bills too.
"And of course, it's not just the way you manage your energy bills that could make a big difference - but how you use energy. You'll already be aware of basic energy-saving tips - not leaving your TV on standby, switching lights off when you leave a room, turning your thermostat down a degree, etc. - but there are various steps you could take to improve your energy efficiency and lower your bills.
"You could invest in a smart meter, which can help you measure the energy used by individual appliances, or even avoid charging your mobile phone overnight to help you cut back on the electricity you use.
"However, for some people, no amount of small changes will improve their situation if they're trying to repay unsecured debts they can no longer afford. If this is the case, you'll need to first find a way of lowering your monthly payments to an affordable level - such as a debt management plan or an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement). Speak to a professional to find out more."
Notes to editors
Gregory Pennington currently helps around 50,000 people repay their debts through its Debt Management Plan. The company is part of the Think Money Group, one of the UK's leading financial solutions providers.
Gregory Pennington is a founding member of DEMSA, the Debt Managers Standards Association, which was established in 2000 'to promote good practice in the debt management industry'. DEMSA's code of conduct has received Office of Fair Trading approval, under its Consumer Codes Approval Scheme.
For more information, visit the Gregory Pennington website at http://www.gregorypennington.co.uk