Are you one of the 45 per cent of people in the UK that don’t pay their energy bills by direct debit? In which case, are you annoyed at being told by energy companies of the money you could save if you did?
The principle of being penalised by paying over the odds simply because you pay by a different method was raised by Robert Halfon MP this week in a backbench debate. The debate expressed disappointment that 17 energy companies charged their customers more for not paying by direct debit and urged Ofgem to hold an inquiry into the practices. The Prime Minister has told the Department for Energy and Climate Change to look into it too.
This is yet another example where consumers are penalised for their choice – something which of course chimes with our own campaign. Indeed as well as commenting on why they prefer their financial dealings on paper, a couple of our supporters have also mentioned their problems with direct debits. Maureen of Worthing remembered having the telephone cut off twice in one month because her direct debit payments went wrong (the company had insisted it was the only method of payment) while another supporter from the Isle of Sheppey laments of direct debits, “the thought of allowing a utility company to extend their sticky fingers into my bank account fills me with horror”.
The overall feeling is that having paper bills that are paid on receipt helps people feel in control of their finances.
This is something I’ll be discussing during my appointments when I visit Scotland and Northern Ireland next week to meet with more organisations and politicians about the campaign. When I visited in November last year, I met some amazing people and organisations such as Capability Scotland and Age Sector Platform who were right behind our campaign and signed up as supporters - I’m hoping for similar results this time around.