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Profiting from the poor

Consumer Focus said it estimated power suppliers were making up to £550 million a year in extra charges from people on pre-payment meters. Typical customers using the devices were often those on the lowest incomes . Energy firms were using customers who pay for their gas or electricity through pre-payment meters to help subsidise cheaper deals for others.

"The energy companies are making the most money out of those on pre-payment meters and often those are the people on the very lowest incomes." said CF spokesperson

Energy awareness group National Energy Action said pre-payment metered customers paid on average £359 more a year than those with normal meters. This contrasts with the extra annual cost of between £85 and £100 to maintain the pre-payment boxes - a sum estimated by energy industry regulator Ofgem.

An NEA spokeswoman also added: "Once you are in debt you are effectively blocked from switching to cheaper deals."

Worse to come

While MPs vote to retain their 2nd home additional expenses allowance of 24,000 pounds , it was revealed that the spiralling cost of living has left Britons 15 per cent worse off than they were five years ago, according to research published. Households were now left with an average of £772.79 to spend each month after paying their fixed monthly outgoings – down from £909.84 in 2003. The report found fixed monthly household costs had soared by nearly 45 per cent during the past five years, to take up 53 per cent of people's total pay. Homeowners were shelling out 78 per cent more in mortgage repayments than in 2003-4 at an average of £735 a month, due to a combination of higher interest rates and people taking out bigger mortgages.Monthly energy bills have leapt by 110 per cent during the period to an average of £95.80, while petrol costs for the typical family are 29 per cent higher at £193.61.

"Many UK consumer segments are feeling the pinch as big rises in household costs …

Poor Energy Bills

The big six energy companies are charging the poorest customers up to £330 a year more for gas and electricity, it emerged last night.

Tariffs for prepayment meters, used typically by pensioners and the less well-off, are up to 45 per cent higher than for internet customers. The industry watchdog branded the practice a £400 million rip-off. The gap between the tariffs has grown after a round of inflation-beating price rises across the sector . Figures compiled by Energy-watch, the watchdog, show that on average prepayment customers are charged £255 a year more than online customers for power, compared with £190 before Christmas. E.ON’s prepayment charge is an average of £1,097 – 45 per cent higher than its internet tariff of £769. British Gas charges its prepayment customers 30 per cent more.

Graham Kerr, of Energywatch, said:

“We have hard evidence of £400 million of excess profits being taken off the poorest members of society just at a time when fuel poverty is continuing to rise. Ins…