Britain's energy regulator Ofgem on Monday launched a call for input to help protect consumers amid high energy costs and find ways to address a record 3.1 billion pound ($3.98 billion) pile of unpaid bills.

Although energy prices have fallen in recent months, affordability for many households remains a concern, while Ofgem last month said customer debts, or unpaid bills, have risen.

"Many people have been struggling to pay their energy bills amid unprecedented levels of debt, and the legacy of this risks becoming an enduring problem," said Tim Jarvis, Ofgem's Director General for Markets.

Ofgem already has a price cap in place, but this soared to 3,549 pounds a year for an average household in October 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to record wholesale energy prices, and peaked at over 4,000 pounds in January 2023.

To prevent crippling costs for households, the government subsidised energy bills to limit them at 2,500 pounds a year for average use until end June 2023 when the Ofgem cap fell back below this level.

Ofgem has previously said Britain should consider launching a social tariff for household energy which would see those most vulnerable and least able to pay charged a lower price for their power, but said this would be a decision for the government.

The regulator is seeking input by a deadline of May 13 from consumers, energy suppliers, consumer groups, charities, and debt management companies in particular.

($1 = 0.7788 pounds)

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Jan Harvey)