RISING energy bills are the leading concern of households across Europe, well ahead of keeping up with rent or mortgage payments, according to a study of 17,000 people across nine countries.

Some 65 per cent of householders say rising energy prices are their primary concern about the home, more than double those worried about keeping up with the mortgage or rent (23 per cent), the 2014 Kingfisher European Home Report found.

Concern about energy prices has driven up energy efficiency as a priority when making home improvements, with 31 per cent of householders now intending to update this compared with just four per cent in 2012. It comes amid reports that two million customers have fled from the UK energy market's "Big Six". Independent figures seen by the Mail on Sunday newspaper apparently show legions of beleaguered households have switched supplier.

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The data shows an average of 100,000 customers swap their Big Six energy provider for an independent firm every month since June last year.

The UK's Big Six group of energy firms are npower, SSE, EDF, E.On, Scottish Power and British Gas, and supply around 95 per cent of the country's power.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said around two million consumers had switched to independent suppliers since 2010.