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More Scots than ever need help with energy problems

The Scottish CAB Service helped consumers with nearly a third more energy problems last year – according to new figures published today by Citizens Advice Scotland.  

The increase is due to ongoing problems with fuel poverty, poor sales practices and high bills but also to the fact that the Scottish CAB Service now runs a dedicated consumer helpline in addition to its local network of CAB offices. 

Today’s report (Sunday) comes as the CAB service prepares to launch a high-profile information campaign – Big Energy Saving Week – which aims to give people practical advice on how to cut their fuel bills. 

Some of the main figures from today’s report include:

  • Although fuel poverty rates are down by 3.4%, Scottish CABs saw 4% more energy-related issues in 2012/13 compared with the previous year
  • With the addition of the Citizens Advice consumer helpline, the Scottish CAB Service now deals with 31% more energy issues than it did in 2011/12.
  • Last year Scottish CABs secured nearly a quarter of a million pounds (£242,918) for clients through advice on switching, energy efficiency, debt management and government schemes. That’s an increase of 15% on the previous year.
  • Consumers in Scotland contacted their CAB with nearly seven times as many issues about poor sales practices in the energy industry last year (up from 111 to 756; an increase of 581%).
  • Our case evidence shows that benefits changes are having a serious and detrimental effect on people’s ability to pay for their fuel, often leaving people facing the stark choice between heating and eating. 

Publishing today’s report, Citizens Advice Scotland’s consumer spokesperson Sarah Beattie-Smith says, 

“It’s clear from this report that too many consumers in Scotland experience problems with their energy supply, leading to cold homes and empty wallets – not to mention a lack of trust in the industry. Nobody should be faced with the stark choice of heating or eating but the cases in our report show that Scottish households face that choice day in and day out. 

“It’s also clear that many people are having other problems with their energy supplier, including poor sales practice and mistakes in service and billing. We’re proud of the success rate the CAB service has in helping people sort these problems, but we would hope that the energy companies will do more to improve their service and stamp out these problems. Consumers deserve the best possible service.  

“The CAB service is working hard to provide practical support and advice to consumers on how to save money on their energy bills, and how to fix problems with their supplier. Our report includes a list of recommendations for governments, the energy industry and landlords about how they can help people beat fuel poverty. In the meantime, people who are struggling with energy bills should take advantage of the free expert advice that the CAB Service can give them. 

“Our Big Energy Saving Week campaign this week is all about helping people pay less for their energy.  You can get our free help on 0808 808 2282, or at or from your local CABs.”