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Energy customers 'building up direct debit shortfalls'

Many Britons are unwittingly running up debts due to paying their energy bills through direct debit, Citizens Advice warned today.According to the charity, customers are building up shortfalls in the amount they pay for their energy each month and the amount of gas and electricity they are actually using, due to their debits being determined through estimated readings.This means that, as bills have risen due to high wholesale costs, the shortfalls are increasing.Speaking to the BBC, energy customer Richard Mann said that his built-up debts through direct debit led to his monthly payments being increased tenfold last month."It's a big jump and we have to find that money from somewhere," he said. "We're a family, we have bills to pay so every penny counts at the moment." Tony Herbert at Citizens Advice added: "[Families] might have a direct debit set up; they might think they're paying their bills, but because they're paying on estimated readings it may not reflect how much they're actually using."General tariffs have been increased by 15 per cent across the board earlier this year - and some analysts expect a further 40 per cent rise before the end of 2008, as wholesale costs continue to go up.

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