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Energy suppliers respond to our campaign – what do you think?

Energy deadline

31 January marked the deadline for energy suppliers to submit their plans to wake up their customers who are sat on standard variable tariffs. So what’s the score then?

Some of you will recall that after a full two-year long investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), last summer the investigation finally concluded.

And it confirmed what we already knew – this market just simply isn’t working for consumers and it’s time for energy companies to accept they need to change.

Disengaged customers

The crux of problem is that, largely we, as consumers, just aren’t engaged with what’s going on with our energy.

And there could be a number of reasons why this is – such as, not knowing how to engage, difficulty understanding energy tariffs or bills, or just simply, a lack of trust in energy companies.

But, there’s a bigger problem here – and one that we’ve been campaigning on – that those who don’t engage are often the ones penalised for it. This comes in the form of paying out for standard variable tariffs or SVTs.

These tariffs are usually the most expensive tariffs on the market. Our research found that the gap between a SVT price paid with the Big Six is, on average, £111 more than their cheapest tariffs and over 58% of the Big Six’s energy customers are on these tariffs.

Well today, Which? was in Parliament giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy parliamentary select committee, on what progress we’ve seen since the regulators published their energy market findings last summer.

And we certainly didn’t pull any punches…

Six months after the CMA’s inquiry concluded and energy prices topped the list of biggest consumer worries. What’s more, trust in the sector has continued to dwindle, and the Big Six energy suppliers also found themselves lumped into the bottom half of our annual energy customer satisfaction survey.

From our view, while we’ve seen Ofgem take on the challenge set, and start trialling and testing ways to improve the current situation with our energy, the same cannot be said of the industry.

Energy sector response

It seems that energy suppliers are dragging their feet and waiting to be told what to do by the government or the regulators, bringing into question their commitment to really making this a proper functioning, competitive market that works for its customers.

And that’s exactly why we’ve been calling on energy suppliers to submit plans that show how they are going to help their most disengaged customers, those on SVTs, get engaged and moving onto better deals.

The deadline we set for that challenge is today. We’ve allowed almost three months for energy suppliers to submit their plans – you can see who has responded to our calls on our energy campaign website.

So, after nearly three years of looking at the problems with our energy, we now want the energy sector to start being part of the solution. Their customers have been waiting far too long already.

Update 14 Feb 2017: Suppliers respond

Our latest analysis of Ofgem data reveals that two thirds of energy customers are still stuck on the most expensive deals. As part of our Fair Energy Prices campaign, we challenged energy suppliers to publish plans on how they’d get these customers engaged and switching.

We had 19 responses from energy suppliers and, of those, 14 set out plans to engage their customers, including trialling simpler bills and new ways to make people to switch. Here’s Which? Campaigns Manager Neena Bhati talking about these plans:

Energy prices remain a top worry for consumers, and with the recent price hikes it’s vital that all companies do more to engage with their customers and make it easier to switch to better deals.

We’ve passed all the plans to the government and Ofgem and have called on them to report on progress by the end of April. We’ll also be pressing suppliers to deliver on their plans, and to regularly set out what difference this is making to their customers.

Do you think the energy industry is doing enough for customers? Do you feel the industry works for you?

Comments
Mike Kitson says:
18 February 2017

I am surprised Green Star Energy have not responded. I was impressed with them when we moved from Coop Energy.

cecilia reilly says:
18 February 2017

We have stayed with Eon but our new tariff is £17 a month more than we were paying before and that was the cheapest. We have moved several time but do not feel it is always worthwhile . It is still very difficult to differentiate between the charges of all the different suppliers

I’m surprised that Ebico haven’t responded as i would and do recomend them to people that i know.

Richard Turner says:
18 February 2017

I would be very interested to how First Utility responded as I have not received any communication from them

I moved from M&S to Green Star Energy in Jan 2017 Neither responded can a reason be requested by Which

I see little point in Which? wasting time in asking energy companies what they intend to do. A significant proportion refuse to answer and the remainder just engage in the usual self-justificatory PR carp (as evidenced by the statements they have provided). Which? should continue to investigate and report on what these overblown and out-of-control money-making machines actually DO rather than what they SAY.

Pointless campaign by WHICH. Energy companies are there to make as much profit as they can and have us over a barrel. OFGEM is a waste of space and money. Customers want only one tariff and that is the cheapest. Energy supplies should be taken back into public ownership and run as not for profit, as should water.

It’s not true to say that “customers only want one tariff” Lyn. Some want a standing charge and some don’t. Some want a lower night rate and a higher day rate. Some want a prepayment meter. Some want a long contract and a fixed price, but others want more flexibility and a variable rate that goes up and down with wholesale prices.

The supply of energy is the easy bit and, so long as the regulatory framework is strong, excess profits should not be an issue [and, as Malcolm has shown, they are not]. I don’t think nationalisation could add much value to the supply operation and nationalising it would put the government at the mercy of the energy producers. Nationalisation worked in the past because all electricity and gas was produced from home-produced coal, the production and allocation of which was easy to control. Now that most of the resources for energy production are imported [apart from some renewables] it all depends on procurement capability, an area in which the government has a dubious record. Of course, it could set up HM Energy Procurement Board [the Joule in the Crown] stuffed with professionals recruited from the state-sequestered energy companies but at a stroke it would lose the competitive edge and end up paying premium prices for every last bit and put taxpayers’ money at risk when negotiating long-term contracts.

Chris says:
19 February 2017

I can understand why WHICH has launched this campaign however, i fail to see the good it will do. Energy companies will continue to rip us off in any way they deem fit as they know we need gas and electricity to survive. Everyday i drive past more properties that are having solar panels or wind turbines fitted to their houses to lower the amount of energy needed from suppliers. I am considering doing the same, by this i mean generating my own power (or as much as i can) and only using energy suppliers when i’m using more than i can generate. I’m sure you all will agree, any money saved will be better off in your pocket than theirs (energy companies)

Wake up Which. Energy companies do not give tuppence for what you say or try to do.

They will always rip us off……this government needs to take control of this overcharging.

I am with OVO, since two years, and am very satisfied with them.

In your review, did you include any of the ‘crowd-funded’ groups (MSE? etc)
which are playing the numbers card?

Mark Humphries says:
19 February 2017

The answer from EDF:
“We believe that the CMA remedies will provide a cross-industry approach, and that we need to make them a success. We are already playing our part, supporting Ofgem in their trials for the customer database, and instead of waiting for the prepayment cap to come in later this year, we decreased prepayment gas prices from 6 January so that customers benefit during the coldest months when gas consumption is at its highest. We commend the focus you are putting on customer engagement. We will continue to work hard to help our loyal customers get the most from their energy, as set out in December when we announced our gas decrease and froze our electricity prices until March 1st.”
Yes they reduced gas prices and Yes they froze the electric price till March 1st and Yes they then spat their dummy threw all the toys out of the pram and as from April 1st we will hike up the electric price to offset what we loose in the gas decrease so all in all “screw you loyal EDF customer we will take you for all that we can”.
Is it now time for some one to step in and say enough is enough and stop these companies once and for all people no longer have the money and these companies know this but still want more, either bring these companies all in line and cap prices or bring it back to government control.

Have you looked at switching from EDF? There are currently around 47 active suppliers – 39 dual fuel, 6 gas only, 2 electricity only. Worth a look on Which?Switch to see if you can get a better deal and set it in progress.

Debbie says:
19 February 2017

I am really horrified! I used to like EDF and they have helped me somewhat over the past 4 years I’ve been with them. Yet they will not address the elephant in the room – ie: their overcharging! Because of this I’ve got a debt with them and they’re REFUSING to let me change to a company who contacted me and I’ve been looking into of late called Octopus! Unlike the big six they own about 40 per cent of the national grid and can pass this onto the consumer with much lower fuel costs. (Having my dreaded electricity bills). Ofcourse I would make an arrangement to keep paying EDF back but I would start saving in real time if I were given the opportunity to join Octopus. They are guilty of keeping people trapped in a fuel poverty of their own making! It’s so unfair.

Material interests in shares
As at 31 March 2016, National Grid had been notified of the following
holdings in voting rights of 3% or more in the issued share capital of
the Company:
Number of ordinary shares…………………………………… % of voting rights
Black Rock, Inc. 220,432,122………………………………………………………..5.88
Competrol International
Investments Limited 149,414,285……………………………………………..3.98
The Capital Group
Companies, Inc. 145,094,617 ………………………………………………………3.88

Perhaps this is what you meant about Octopus?:
“Octopus is the UK’s largest investor in solar farms
In fact, the farms we’ve funded generate 40% of all the UK’s large scale solar – enough to power over a quarter of a million homes (when the sun shines!)”

Someone also needs to generate electricity when the sun doesn’t shine.

Changed my supplier from OVO after 12 months of repeated appointments and cancellations with dozens of e-mails re the fitting of Smart Meters then being told in September 2015 there was nothing they could do. Changed to First Utility and within two weeks Smart Meter fitted and have been very helpful to me from first speaking to them, completely different from OVO poor company although voted number one supplier in Which? magazine

Re-Nationalise Power.

James Chambers says:
19 February 2017

I have been with First Utility for several years now and overall they have very cometative tariffs however….they still like to try it on. They offered me a “special deal” where i can fix for 4 years but the rate is almost DOUBLE what i am paying now. It is an insult to my intelligence and i resent these gimmicks.

Ray Fowles says:
20 February 2017

I have switched from BGas to IRESA as they gave me little alternative, the “new deals” are literally closely aligned with the standard offering., which is around a third higher than my current deal.

@Robert Griffiths – Agreed, but the problem there is we run the risk of being held to ransom by the unions, i.e. Southern Rail, that dispute has been rumbling on for months now.

So which way does society want things: A) renationalise utilities, transport et al and be held to ransom by the unions or B) leave things as they are and be held to ransom by shareholders / stakeholders.

Either way the consumer / customer looses, so we we need to ask ask ourselves what are we do about this??

I received notification of Npower’s headline increase in electricity prices by 15 % earlier this month, with it came an estimate of my personal annual cost change (from £226 to £291) which is in fact not far short of a 30% increase (28.55% to be exact), this results mainly from an extraordinary increase in the daily standing charge from 11.508p to 27.332p. The result is that the standing charge now amounts to one third of my estimated total bill. This means that my overall cost per unit is far higher thanthe average user. In an age when nearly everyone recognises that we should use as little energy as possible is it right that low users are penalised in this way, surely we should be rewarded for our economy? can anyone suggest a provider which has a much lower standing charge?

Go to the comparison site Which?Switch.

Melanie says:
20 February 2017

I recently shopped around for a cheaper tariffs and found that many were very similar to Eon, comparing like for like. I wish to remain on economy 7 because of using storage heaters for heating, have only electricity because of the block we live in, and spend a few months away, and therefore cannot take advantage of incentives offered by a number of providers as they all rely on similar options that do not take my circumstances into account I.e. They are not flexible enough with the incentives they offer. Many homes owned by the elderly fall into this same bracket. Can they perhaps design a package for these circumstances?

You can try Which?Switch, put in your basic details and either how much you currently spend (£) or use (units , kWh) then you will get a list of suppliers and prices from the cheapest upwards. If you don’t want to use the internet, their phone numbers are 0800 410 1149 or 01259 220 235.

Carol says:
20 February 2017

I have an all electric property and this makes it more difficult to get a good deal. I have not checked in the last couple of years however I believe that Utility Warehouse are providing me with a competitive rate for my electricity. I get regular notifications from them saying I am on the best tariff they offer. Perhaps now is the time to make the effort to research the market.