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Seven times as many Scots are seeking advice on soaring energy costs compared with last year

Rising energy bills, poor sales practices and problems with fuel poverty have contributed to a significant increase in energy-related enquiries, a consumer advice organisation has said.

In 2012/13, consumers attended their local Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) seeking help with 9,869 energy-related issues - an increase from 9,500 in 2011/12 while the organisation's dedicated consumer service dealt with a further of 2,614 enquiries.

With the addition of the dedicated consumer helpline, CAB now dealt with 31% more energy issues than it did in 2011/12.

The figures are contained in a new report from CAB, published as the service prepares to launch an information campaign, Big Energy Saving Week, which aims to give people practical advice on how to cut their fuel bills.

The report also revealed that consumers in Scotland contacted their CAB with nearly seven times as many issues about poor sales practices in the energy industry in 2012/13 as they did in 2011/12, up from 111 to 756.

CAB says that evidence shows that benefits changes are "having a serious and detrimental effect on people's ability to pay for their fuel, often leaving people facing the stark choice between heating and eating".

The organisation's consumer spokeswoman Sarah Beattie-Smith said: "It's clear from this report that too many consumers in Scotland experience problems with their energy supply, leading to cold homes and empty wallets - not to mention a lack of trust in the industry.

"Nobody should be faced with the stark choice of heating or eating but the cases in our report show that Scottish households face that choice day in and day out.

"It's also clear that many people are having other problems with their energy supplier, including poor sales practice and mistakes in service and billing.

"We're proud of the success rate the CAB service has in helping people sort these problems, but we would hope that the energy companies will do more to improve their service and stamp out these problems. Consumers deserve the best possible service."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We welcome this report and the work Citizens Advice Scotland is doing to support people with energy issues.

"The Scottish Government has invested over £220 million on fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes since 2009 with an estimated net gain in household income of over £1 billion over the lifetime of the measures installed.

"We will spend nearly a quarter of a billion pounds over a three-year period on fuel poverty and energy efficiency to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from housing.

"Last year Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the current SNP government, if elected in an independent Scotland, will move costs of Energy Companies Obligation and Warm Home Discount from levies on consumers bills to government spending. This is expected to cut energy bills by roughly 5% or £70 a year, and will ensure that investment in energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes is maintained."

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