The Energy Advice Line has urged British energy users to seek help rather than go cold, following a survey showing some home owners are risking their health to save money on bills.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the commercial electric price comparison, switching, and advice service for energy users, said the research by the Office for National Statistics was a sad reflection on the state of the UK's energy market. "The research is a stark reminder to politicians and energy companies that spiralling energy prices have a very real impact on consumers," Mr Morgan said. "This is not a theoretical argument or a media-driven issue. Ordinary people are suffering badly because they can't afford to heat their homes. This research really proves how far-reaching and dramatic the implications are when the cost of energy climbs beyond the reach of ordinary people. Lack of competition in the UK energy market, and policies that don't have consumers at the centre, are taking their toll."
The research found that homeowners were keeping the heat off even when they were cold rather than paying soaring energy bills. Almost 65% of 1,800 adults surveyed in the nationwide poll said they would not turn the gas or electricity on or up when feeling chilly, with the figure rising to 76% for those aged 16 to 24. Around half those surveyed said they were worried that elderly relatives were too cold in their homes at this time of year.
In a separate study last year, the World Health Organisation found that about 9,000 people died through being too cold in their homes in the UK.
"If this many people were being killed and harmed in traffic incidents or natural disasters there would be a public outcry and drastic action be taken to tackle the problem," Mr Morgan said. "But this is happening behind closed doors and many people are suffering in silence. We would urge anyone who is struggling to pay their bills to get in touch and we will help them work out whether they are on the best possible deal and if not, help them switch. Like any good and independent price comparison and switching service, our service is free so there is nothing to lose and lots of potential savings to make. We can give advice on the cheapest way to pay energy bills and the best kind of product for their household."