A third of Britons are already concerned about paying their energy bills this winter and more than half are struggling with their household finances, a survey has found.

The poll, taken before British Gas announced this week that it is to hike electricity prices by 12.5% for 3.1 million customers, found 32% of bill payers are worried about how they will meet their energy costs when the colder months set in.

Some 55% are already struggling to pay their household bills, but 29% of energy customers have never switched provider, uSwitch found.

'Big Six' suppliers' electricity standard plan price changes.
(PA graphic)

British Gas was the last of the Big Six providers to increase prices after it promised in December last year to freeze tariffs until August, with its rivals moving to raise bills at the start of the year.

Uswitch’s own figures show London’s residents are 32% less likely than the average to switch supplier, followed by other cities such as Liverpool (minus 22%), Newcastle upon Tyne (minus 10%), Cardiff (minus 9%), Edinburgh (minus 5%) and Manchester (minus 4%).

City residents’ reluctance to switch energy supplier could be a result of having a high proportion of renters, despite all bill payers – home owners and tenants – having the right to change their tariff or provider.

A variety of To Let, Let By and Sold estate agent signs outside houses in Richmond upon Thames, London.
(Yui Mok/PA)

Those living in commuter towns are more likely to change supplier, such as residents in St Albans where switching rates are 33% higher than average, Reading (32%) and Stevenage (31%).

Those who have stayed with their supplier for more than two years without actively choosing a tariff, or have never switched at all, are likely to be on the most expensive Standard Variable Tariff, which has an average current price among the Big Six of £1,138, £304 more expensive than the cheapest deal currently on the market.

Among those who have never switched, 33% said they did not think they would save much money, 19% thought all suppliers were the same and 17% found the switching process too complicated.

Instead, more than half of consumers have previously turned down the thermostat (53%) or worn more layers (51%) to avoid putting on the heating, while 33% say they they have not turned the heating on at all, even when it is cold.

A gloved hand on a British Gas central heating Thermostat.
(Rui Vieira/PA)

Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy spokeswoman, said: “It’s appalling that a third of Britain’s households are already worrying about how they will be able to afford to keep warm this winter, especially when half of them are already struggling with their household finances.

“To make matters even worse, the latest price hike from British Gas will hit three million more energy customers just as they start to think about putting the central heating on.

“Whether you own your own home or rent, and whatever part of the country you live in, all energy customers have the right to choose the tariff that’s best for them rather than accepting whatever price their supplier imposes.”

:: Opinium surveyed 2,000 UK energy bill payers from July 14 to 19.