January 16, 2024

Overwhelming majority of the public support abolishing standing charges

New research shows overwhelming support for scrapping the flat-rate daily charge on consumer energy bills as thousands share their experiences of the energy crisis.

A comprehensive survey of over 45,000 Organise members reveals the tough reality that many people across the UK are facing due to the energy crisis, compounded by unfair standing charges that disproportionately affect low-income households. The research shows that standing charges make it harder for 90% of people to afford adequate heating in the winter, with 84% forced to cut heating, showers, baths, washing and drying. 72% have been forced into debt or are unable to top up their pre-payment meter due to the cost of standing charges.

Those on pre-payment meters are one group hit hard by standing charges. According to Ofgem, 534,462 electricity customers and 269,351 gas customers were cut off between January and March 2023. This data only covers 4% of households, however, ignoring millions of other struggling low-income households, like the 2,000,000 homes without gas supply that pay the higher electricity standing charges and unit costs.

Organise members also criticise how standing charges force poor households to fund billions of pounds in operating costs for big energy retailers, especially given the poor standards of customer service provided and their marketing and advertising spends, which many feel is wasteful.

Roxana Khan-Williams, Head of UK Campaigns at Organise says: "The cost of living crisis is causing record numbers of people to seek out energy bill support and cut down on heating their homes this winter. Unfair standing charges add extra costs to an already untenable situation and hit those on low incomes the hardest. Tens of thousands of people in the Organise network are backing the campaign urging Ofgem to act - and abolish unfair standing charges once and for all."

One Organise member, Joan*, shared: "I am having to be extra careful with my consumption, even though I have a disability which is made worse by the cold due to spasms. The standing charge on top of the crippling cost per unit of energy means I have no choice but to cut back.”

Standing charges also undermine energy efficiency by punishing low-usage consumers and subsidising energy waste. This conflicts with Government policy and Ofgem’s new statutory net zero duty.

Organise member, Jack, shared: “I do anything to keep the costs down. I'm disabled and housebound most of the time. I therefore do not put my heating on and spend most of my time in bed with an electric blanket on as it is the cheapest way of keeping warm. I also eat mainly microwavable meals as it's cheaper than putting the oven on. Standing charges soon add up, eating into what little money I've put aside for fuel bills.“

Ofgem has previously resisted calls to reduce or remove standing charges, instead increasing them to pay the £2.7 billion bill from supplier failures that many blame on poor Ofgem regulation. But increasing public pressure and a report from the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee has forced them to do a review of standing charges.

The campaign against standing charges has gone to No. 10, with the Organise petition handed in on January 16. Campaigners from Organise and Fuel Poverty Action demand urgent action to prevent further suffering, illnesses and deaths from cold homes.

Jonathan Bean from Fuel Poverty Action said: “Standing charges are inhumane and dangerous, forcing people to stop heating their homes and water. Ofgem and the Government need to stop ignoring the issue and delaying reform. Removing standing charges is a key part of a fairer greener energy system that we call Energy For All.”

*Members' names changed to protect their anonymity.