More than one-third of the European consumers (35%) have skipped at least one bill in the last 12 months – the highest proportion since 2019. Three quarters (76%) of consumers are only just breaking even or overspending each month, with an average overspending per person of EUR 232, according to this year’s annual edition of the European Consumer Payment Report, compiled after a survey of 20 000 respondents in 20 European countries.
An indicator for the growing pressure on the personal finances is also the fact that one in three, who have skipped at least one bill, is feeling less guilt for dodging its payment due date than in the past. The finding suggests people believe reneging on payments is a natural, and necessary, consequence of a more challenging economic environment, according to the authors of the report.
The main reason for failing to pay bills is simply not having the money required to pay (43%). Most of the respondents admit that they have exceeded their monthly budget or have spent it all, and 20% have no savings to fall back on in case of financial problems and unexpected costs. A further 17% have less than one month’s income saved.
The results of the survey depict a stark picture of the wellbeing of the European consumers, facing the dual shock of rising interest rates and high inflation, the study’s authors note.
The share of people with overdue payments varies in different countries – the highest percentage being in Norway (57%) while Portugal and Spain have the lowest share of consumers with late payments and unpaid bills. Curiously, Norway has always been one of the countries with the highest standard of living and income per capita worldwide, while Portugal and Spain have been considered problematic in terms of main macroeconomic indicators and indebtedness. Greece remains a country with late payments – 54% of Greek consumers overdue a payment for more than a month, while in Italy it is only 28% (see the chart).
Half the population have suffered a disposable income drop. Consumers’ real earnings have stagnated or even declined as surging inflation and higher borrowing costs continue to be a problem for European households, the report concludes. Consumers’ outlook on the future has also worsened, with just 45% expecting their financial situation to improve over the next 12 months. On average, people believe that high inflation will last until early 2025.