Q: Would you be able to work out what your energy bill would be if you were to switch tariff without using a switching site? A: No. We put 36 people to the test and only one could work it out.
There are now around 400 energy tariffs to choose from. Do we really need so many different options for what is, at the end, only gas and electricity?
Tiers, standing charge, discounts, exit fees, capped tariffs, kWh… why are tariffs so complex?
Can you make sense of your energy tariff?
To illustrate the problem of just how complicated tariffs are, Which? asked 36 members of the public – including a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant – to work out how much they’d pay per year if they were to switch to a certain tariff.
We chose the ‘standard tariff’ from the three biggest suppliers of dual fuel domestic customers in Great Britain: 12 people were each given British Gas, SSE and Eon.
Participants were allowed to use a spreadsheet and a calculator but were banned from resorting to a switching comparison site. This is because most people don’t use them to switch, and companies ought to provide clear information on their deals so you could check prices if you wanted to.
Only one of 36 – a director in the retail sector – managed to work out how much he’d pay, unaided. The others all made mistakes or needed help when calculating the costs or could not find the tariff information on the suppliers’ websites. Even a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant couldn’t work it out.
Simpler tariffs are out there
Our maths expert said that A-level maths students would struggle and that the vast majority of the population – perhaps 95% – would not be able to obtain the correct cost for their usage.
Some people also tried simpler tariffs from Ebico and the Co-operative. The success rate was higher: 10 out of 28. So there are alternatives already on the market showing that tariffs don’t need to be so complex.
Have you ever tried to find out the rates of the tariff you’re on? Would you like to see a simpler tariff structure when you could compare tariffs at a glance?