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New charges 'hit vulnerable hardest'

New charges levied against customers who do not pay their bills electronically are likely to hit vulnerable groups hardest, a charity has warned.Credit Action cautioned that with a number of major companies introducing these charges, the elderly and the poor would be the ones to lose out.Traditionally, customers have been offered a discount for paying phone, gas or other bills by direct debit.But more and more companies are now adding an administration charge to bills paid by cash or cheque."The very people who will be hit hardest by this will firstly be the people who are financially excluded as they don't have a bank account because they're not [on a] very high income," said Chris Tapp, associate director of Credit Action."The elderly as well is something that needs to be taken into account," he added. "Setting up direct debits is firstly complicated and secondly, makes them slightly nervous as it feels like they’ve lost control of it a little bit."A report out earlier this month by Save the Children and the Family Welfare Association claimed vulnerable groups were paying additional £1,000 a year for essential.Customers of phone, TV and internet giant Virgin Media are charged £5 a month to pay by cheque, while BT said recently it would introduce a similar charge for its customers in May.

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