News Column

Personal finance Big rise in helpline calls over utility bill arrears

June 10, 2014

Hilary Osborne

Rising household bills and falling incomes have led to a rise in the number of people with serious debt problems, according to the Money Advice Trust charity. It has published a report recording a 140% rise in the number of people it has had to help with debts on household bills since 2007, before the financial crisis began.

The charity, which helps thousands of consumers each year through National Debtline, said it had seen "a radical shift" in the type of debt problems it was helping to resolve, with more people seeking advice on debts concerning energy, water, telephone, council tax and catalogue shopping bills. Fewer people are reporting problems with traditional credit products such as bank overdrafts, loans and credit cards.

"The gradual erosion of some families' surplus income in the face of rising prices has led to a new generation of debt problems - one to which more people are vulnerable, one which is harder to resolve and one which has no definitive solution," said Joanna Elson, the trust's chief executive. In 2013, National Debtline helped people repay more than 150,000 household bill debts.

Calls to National Debtline about council tax arrears have almost doubled; calls concerning energy bills have gone up by 171%; and cases of phone bill arrears are up 230%. The biggest rise, of 305%, has been in calls about water bill arrears. Hilary Osborne

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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