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We ask the big energy players: what’s your biggest concern?

Because it’s Big Energy Week, we’ve asked key organisations, charities and energy companies what they think is the biggest problem in the energy market today. What will you make of their responses?

Not unexpectedly, their answers show a recurrence of the familiar themes we’ve talked about here on Which? Conversation, such as cost, complex tariffs and low trust in energy companies.

Energy prices rose a whopping 63% between 2000 and 2010, so it’s no wonder cost is a big issue for people. And as prices rise, it becomes harder for people to afford to heat their homes.

The rising cost of energy

Age UK’s charity director, Michelle Mitchell, picked out energy costs as her big concern:

‘The latest estimates show that there are now over 4.8 million older people of over 60 years of age who are fuel poor. These people are facing serious pressures on their meagre household budgets and are too often being faced with the choice of heating their homes or eating.’

Friends of the Earth agreed. Its senior energy campaigner, Paul Steedman, told us:

‘The yo-yoing price of gas, used for heating and to produce nearly half Britain’s electricity, has left families unable to plan their budgets.’

Complex tariffs and unclear bills

But it’s not just cost that means people are paying more than they should. Complex tariffs and unclear bills make it harder for people to know the true cost of their energy, which in turn makes it harder for them to choose a better tariff.

Ofgem’s Ian Marlee explained what Ofgem is doing to simplify energy tariffs:

‘Our review of the retail market found competition is being stifled by tariff complexity – which puts people off switching – as well as a lack of transparency and poor behaviour by suppliers.

‘We are proposing simpler tariffs so people can compare more easily to find the best deal for them; new rules to improve bills and annual statements; and tougher standards of conduct.’

While this is good, we think more should be done to tackle confusing tariffs. And Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s chief executive, agrees:

‘To reduce confusion around tariffs energy suppliers need to make choosing the right tariff easier, and it’s vital they tell customers about the best deal available to them and promote all the help that is at hand. At the Energy Summit last year, energy companies committed to making this happen and we’re determined to see that it does.’

What does the energy industry think?

Energy UK, the umbrella body for all the energy companies, raised the problem of energy security as well as cost. But it’s not just what the energy industry can do can do, Energy UK explains that we can all make changes to help reduce our energy usage:

‘The key challenge is how to ensure we have the energy supplies that the UK needs, while keeping prices affordable for consumers and also ensuring a successful transition to a low carbon economy. Making our homes more energy efficient could be crucial to keeping our bills as low as possible while meeting the challenges ahead.’

We didn’t stop there – we’ve asked lots of other energy companies, charities and organisations about their big energy concerns. We’ll be posting their responses in the comments below.

So, now you’ve heard from them, it’s over to you – what do you think is the biggest problem in the energy market? And what can charities, energy companies and the government do to fix it?

Comments
Member

“The biggest problem for domestic customers in the energy market today is knowledge. In order for this to improve more transparency and simplicity is required.

It needs to be easier for customers to know what tariff they are currently on, including information on expiry dates and cancellation charges to provide empowerment for customers to switch to a cheaper energy tariff. The range of energy tariffs available to customers needs to be more streamlined to facilitate choice. Confidence in energy switching needs to improve so that more homes can benefit from cheaper energy tariffs.”

Sally Hill
CEO, Switch Gas and Electric Ltd

Member

Here at Confused.com we believe the biggest problem in the energy market today is the lack of consumer confidence. Consumers simply don’t trust the energy companies, and work needs to be done to rebuild the trust. Part of the problem stems from the market being overly complicated, but it’s also due to the constant raising and lowering of prices due to our reliance on wholesale gas prices. Consumers need to feel they’re being treated fairly, and unfortunately there’s some way to go before we achieve this.

Lisa Greenfield
Energy Product Analyst, Confused.com

Member

“The biggest problem for consumers today is the cost of energy. We all need to look more closely at our energy consumption however it’s clear some consumers don’t understand why their prices are rising and that they can do something to take control of their bills. As Big Energy Week shows, we are able to provide support in many cases, however too many customers don’t trust us to help them. That’s why we’ve launched our Reset Review to look at how we supply, support and sell so that we can rebuild customer trust and help them to control their bills.”

Tony Cocker
CEO, E.ON UK

Member

Tony – Thanks for responding to the fall in energy prices by announcing a decrease in prices in February. The clarity of e.on billing is exemplary and attending to the issues mentioned below would be a great help to customers.

– Either put a stop to the practice of keeping many customers’ in credit by hundreds of pounds or pay interest on credit balances.

– Use a geographical phone number for Customer Services, which would be cheaper for many customers.

– Provide an email address for Customer Services instead of a Web-based form or at least provide the facility to copy messages to the customer’s email account.

Member
Sandra says:
22 January 2012

Mr. Crocker . People are finding EON a dreadful company to be with ! How can someone signing up to you a couple of months ago at direst debit of £58 per month suddenly be asked for £128 per month ?!!! This, when on the reverse of the letter you have an estimated forecast of energy usage over the next 12 months equating to £58 per month !!! Your service is a complete joke . You can ring up three times for quotes and get three completely different amounts !

Why no help for those on the very lowest income households ?
the energy industry in this country is scandalous .

Member

Hi @wavechange, great points and these are all things that we are looking at as part of our Reset Review. Please do get involved and help us improve. You can find out more online here: http://www.eonenergy.com/At-Home/Reset/

Anne, E.ON

Member

Hi @Sandra, Thanks for bringing this example to our attention. This isn’t good, we don’t want to let customers down. We’ve made some initial changes to how we manage Direct Debit payments so that this is fairer for customers, and we’re looking at further changes as part of our Reset Review.

If you need help with your account then please get in touch – if you’re on Twitter you can tweet @EONhelp #eonhelp. There’s lots of help available for low income households, your energy provider or groups like Citizens Advice can help. These are all things that we’re looking at as part of our Reset Review, so please do get involved http://www.eonenergy.com/At-Home/Reset/

Anne, E.ON

Member
hmp says:
21 May 2017

one of the worst companies to deal with ok and in serious issues and what is mentioned on here is correct please contact ok thanks asap.

why cant we be treated like humans and treated like fools ok and the whole industry needs an over hall thanks please advice thanks.

the markets needs to be fixed and even a mayor of london and the elections needs to concetrate on this now asap.