Advise on Checking Bills & Avoiding Financial Pressure

By: Tom Dawson

Despite the convenience that paying for bills via direct debit may provide, it is not a reason for Britons to be complacent when it comes to keeping track of their money management, new research suggests.

In a study carried out by moneysupermarket, it was revealed that such a payment system is becoming increasingly popular among many consumers. At present it was revealed that a quarter of credit card bills are paid using direct debit, with this proportion rising to 48 per cent for gas bills. Meanwhile, 63 and 54 per cent of demands for payment on landline telephone and electricity bills respectively are met this way.

Research from the price comparison site also revealed that 17 per cent of consumers have uncovered an error on their bill during the past three months, while over the last year about one in three have discovered that they have been incorrectly charged. Overall, it was indicated that around eight million people were overcharged in the last quarter. Moneysupermarket went on to assert that at "a time when household budgets are being squeezed more than ever, the last thing Brits need is to be landed with an incorrect bill". In spite of this however, it was shown that half of respondents claim that they do not check every bill that they receive.

Indeed, following on from being charged more money than they should have been for bills, it is possible that consumers could find that they develop greater problems in managing various demands on their spending. Such areas could well include personal loans, credit and store cards and mortgage repayments.

Commenting on the figures, Rob Barnes, head of broadband and mobiles for moneysupermarket, said: "The staggering amount of people who've been hit with an incorrect bill only goes to show how inadequate some providers can be. Consumers are already facing increased living costs, the last thing they need is to be charged for something they never had. Worryingly there are millions of people who still don't check their bills, meaning they could be paying over the odds for a service they have never received. If you don't check all your bills you're leaving yourselves open to being taken advantage of."

Mr Barnes went on to report that it is particularly important for consumers on direct debit to check every statement that they receive. He added: "If payments are made automatically against incorrectly charged bills, suppliers are raking in millions of extra pounds."

However, those who choose not to adopt direct debit appear to be more cautious with managing their money. A third of such consumers believe that direct debits limit their ability to control their spending, with one in ten not trusting companies to charge them the right amount. Meanwhile, women were shown to be keeping a more cautious eye over their finances than men.

For those consumers finding that they are struggling to keep up with various demands on their spending, a debt consolidation loan might be advised. By doing so, it is possible that borrowers can merge numerous financial constraints, such as household bills, council tax and credit cards, into a single low-cost monthly repayment. A debt consolidation loan might be of additional help for Britons after a recent uSwitch study showed that by opting to receive bills via email rather than postal mail consumers could save 162 million pounds a year. Overall, it was stated that switching payment methods could generate annual savings of 237 million pounds.

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