Citizens Advice sees bills queries rise by 79%

Citizens Advice Scotland says it helped nearly 800 people every day last year. Photograph: Neil Hanna
Citizens Advice Scotland says it helped nearly 800 people every day last year. Photograph: Neil Hanna
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Citizens Advice Scotland has seen soaring requests for help amid spiralling household bills and complaints over utility charging.

Advice was given to 773 people every day last year, according to a “snapshot” of CAS’s work in the past 12 months.

And the number of queries about utility bills – which were higher north of the Border than elsewhere in the UK– rocketed by 79 per cent.

However, issues surrounding credit, store and charge card debts remained the biggest issue for Scots, with more than 32,000 queries over the period.

When calls to the CAS consumer helpline were taken into account, the most common issue was unsecured lending – which includes payday loans – followed by credit-card debt.

The report also highlighted a 52 per cent increase in complaints about parking tickets issued on private land.

CAS said art-related scams in the past year pushed private auction and listings queries up by 49 per cent.

Scots were more likely to seek advice over problems with domestic fuel, soft furnishings, house construction, floor coverings and new cars than people south of the Border.

But they were less likely to grumble about estate agents, disability aids, commercial vehicles and transport (including flights, food and drink).

CAS found significant regional variations, with Shetlanders more than twice as likely to complain about computing services such as broadband than the Scottish average. People in the Western Isles were 4.5 times more likely to raise issues about insulation.

Susan McPhee, director of policy at CAS, said it had campaigned hard on issues such as unfair rural delivery charges – and pointed to the merging of some of Consumer Focus Scotland’s responsibilities with CAS’s over the past two years.

“The sheer number of consumer problems we see has increased significantly as the whole structure of consumer bodies has been streamlined, with Citizens Advice Bureaux becoming one of the main agencies people can come to with their problems,” she said.

“As a result of this, we’ve seen a marked increase in cases – and we welcome this.

The report said rural and town communities are much more likely to use the helpline than city-dwellers.

Moray saw the biggest number of calls overall – 356 per 10,000 households – compared with the Scottish average of 248. However, Glasgow residents made the most calls from one single local authority, at 6,000 over the 12 months.

Scotland-wide, calls about tobacco to the consumer helpline increased by 59 per cent due to more reporting of illicit and fake products after awareness-raising campaign by 
police and trading standards.