Rip Off Britain energy special highlights energy debt dramas

After almost four years of sky high energy bills and repeated Ofgem rulings criticising energy firms’ customer service, BBC’s flagship Rip Off Britain programme has broadcast an energy special.

Billing errors, smart meter malfunctions and soaring levels of energy debt were discussed over the course of the 45-minute long programme, fronted by Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville.

Warm This Winter data has found that 4.4m households (15% of the public) are in energy debt. This figure is far higher than the 2.5m estimated by Ofgem, which only counts a household being in debt if the debt is more than 90 days old. [1]

Joining the programme was the coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Simon Francis, who said:

“Millions of people are in energy debt and with the prices of energy still 50% above 2021 levels, the strain households are being put under is intolerable.

“Indeed, a fifth of people in energy debt are also turning to illegal money lenders due to the strain on their finances. The ongoing energy bills crisis is causing horrendous implications for households and wider society.

“Warm This Winter campaign research found that £1.3bn of consumers’ money is being given to energy firms to administer bad debt this year. But not all of it will be used to actually write off the debt caused by soaring energy prices and record energy industry profits.

“The next Government will need to act quickly after the election to end energy debt, protect households from the energy market, bring down bills for good, improve housing standards and make Britain a clean energy superpower.”

In the programme, the energy industry was called on to back a Help To Repay scheme for energy debt which would see the £1.3bn – or money raised by the Windfall Tax on energy profits – used to match consumer repayments of energy bills.

The programme also offered advice to viewers including one who was struggling to get their energy firm to set a reasonable direct debit. In response, the show highlighted recent Warm This Winter Tariff Watch reports which found that customers who are experiencing bad customer service may be prevented from switching by exit fees which have increased 345% in recent years.

Recently more than 14,000 consumers have signed up to take action to reclaim credit from energy bills built up as their direct debits were set too high. The organisers behind the “Big Energy Credit Claimback” revealed that over a third of households in permanent energy credit are also on low incomes. [2]

Warm This Winter campaign spokesperson Fiona Waters commented:

“Everyone is fed up with being ripped off and used as cash machines by energy suppliers. Even with Friday’s price cap reduction, people are still paying 50 percent more than they were three years ago.

“That’s why thousands have joined our Big Energy Credit Claim Back protest because energy suppliers have been consistently overcharging them and are sitting on £3 billion of credit that is owed to bill payers and those companies have made millions in interest.

“We urge everyone to join us and send a wake up call that we demand change to our broken energy system, You can find out all about that on our Warm This Winter website.”

The programme can now be watched on catch up, iPlayer or online at


[1] Public opinion polling from Opinium who interviewed 2,000 people between 15 and 19 March 2024. Results were weighted to be representative of the UK population.

[2] Figure is a combination of sign ups to 38 Degrees and Warm This Winter online actions and was correct as of 1700 on Friday 24 May 2024.