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Help shape Ebico’s charter to sort out energy companies

If you could force energy companies to behave differently, what would you expect of them? That’s what not-for-profit energy company Ebico’s asking. Managing Director Phil Levermore explains why you should speak up.

The energy industry has never been under such intense scrutiny as it is right now. Already, thanks to pressure from consumer rights groups and watchdogs, the majority of the major suppliers has abandoned the controversial practice of doorstep selling.

The government is pushing for major reforms to overhaul the market, looking at critical issues such as tariff complexity and pricing to poor advice when switching to ensure that it is working in the best interests of consumers.

But despite all these efforts at reform, at Ebico we believe that the industry still needs to do more to support its customers and rebuild its reputation. That’s why we’re launching a campaign to transform the sales experience for UK energy consumers.

What do you expect from your energy supplier?

For too many, this question would probably provoke a litany of negative answers. ‘They’ll probably try to sell me things I don’t want.’ ‘They’ll try to confuse me with complex tariffs.’ ‘It’ll take me forever to get through to a customer service representative.’ The list of complaints being levied at energy companies is lengthy – and all too familiar.

But, what if, instead of having to bemoan our treatment at the hands of energy companies, the power was put back into the hands of the customer?

What if customers got together and turned the tables on energy companies, telling them how we expect to be treated in a positive manner, rather than resigning ourselves to a negative customer experience?

Fuelled by experience, powered by consumers

We think it’s time that energy companies listened to what their customers want and reacted accordingly, updating their practices and services to meet their customers’ expectations. So we’ve launched our ‘Great Expectations’ campaign, and we’re asking what your expectations are when it comes to how energy suppliers should treat their customers.

Ever been on the receiving end of a persistent doorstep seller? Do you find deciphering tariffs impossible? Have you switched supplier on the promise of lower prices… only to receive bigger bills?

Based on your responses, we want to create an ambitious charter of expectations, ready to take to Number 10 to challenge existing energy industry practices. We will ask everyone – from consumer groups, to politicians and the media – to support us in calling on all energy companies to sign up to the charter for the good of consumers.

Over the next few weeks, we’re asking people to make three votes on the commitments they believe all energy suppliers should sign up to under the three headings of Openness, Fairness and Honesty.

We’d love to get your thoughts. Add your comments here to tell us what you think, or visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to see how you can get more involved.

So what do you think energy companies should be doing to make the customer’s experience a better one?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the energy supplier, Ebico. All your responses will feed into its campaigning work, not the work of Which?

julian Pitt says:
7 November 2011

Energy companies should start charging the opposite way to the way they do presently, in other words charging at a lower rate the less you use, rather than the more you use.

Hello Julian, you might be interested in this Conversation which talks about this very issue; https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/two-tiered-tariffs-low-energy-users/

All customers should automatically have the cheapest tariff. Standing charges should be abolished and also rates for the first x kw/h charged at extortionate amounts should also go. Customers should not be penalised for paying by quarterly DD instead of monthly and energy companies should not be hiking monthly payments to put customers into massive credit.

When energy prices fall that should be reflected in bills and not ignored as they seem to be currently. The generating companies are operating like a cartel. Everyone knows this!

Switching supplier should also take a maximum of 2 weeks and any debts carried over to avoid the less well off being forced into staying with over priced suppliers.

I’d hope some of the above was already in place!

derek turner says:
7 November 2011

Hi folks
Just a grump about N power so called contracts.
I was on the lines of thinking a contract means just that.
Not so with N power It seems their contract appears to penalise you if you leave before there 12 month contract is up, but at the same time they can keep increasing there prices as they please
Surly this is no contract and they should be stopped doing business this way
I hope more people will complain about this con trick and the government to stamp out this practice for ever.

Mikhail says:
7 November 2011

I remember old good times when the State (government owned company) was a major provider of electricity. However, no competition = no progress = not equal opportunity, therefore a monopoly = bad. Well, I think we should not have competition in all aspects of living. Now we have, how many, 6, 10 energy companies selling us the same energy through the same cable. The only difference for consumers is in instead of using economy of scale within one (state owned) company we have more directors and shareholders to feed, therefore the cost of electricity will always remain high.

Slightly off topic but thanks Which? for making it so clear that this is a guest contribution. I don’t think I am the only one who has missed this in other topics, if only because we don’t read the introductions carefully.

I look forward to developments with interest. e.on are not my favourite company at the moment, even though I think the clarity of their online bills is exemplary.

I would like to see more “not for profit” energy supply companies , maybe set-up with the intention of providing low-cost energy to the normal consumer rather than Ebico’s ethical one price for everyone model, with surpluses being returned to customers.

A more transparent tariff linked to market energy costs would be another innovation.

We use to have “not for profit energy supply” back in the days when energy supply was nationalised.
I could live with a re-nationalised energy supply system.
I don’t think so called market force competition as we have now is working, especially as most of use believe the big six suppliers basically make up a cartel.
At least with a nationalised system we could all complain about prices, tariffs and services to one common entity.
There would be no need to constantly go through the malarkey of switching.
The lack of infrastructure duplication theorectically should reduce costs and therfore prices.
There would be no pressure to produce ever increasing profit to fill shareholder’s pockets, all at our expense.
We’d still need a strong watchdog of course (with more teeth than ofgem) because without one the Government (any Government) would make a hash of it, like most things they touch.

Harry Felgate says:
22 December 2012

I remember the supply was 12hrs on and 12hrs off when it was nationlised, who wants to go back to that? It’s bad enough having to suffer train drivers on Boxing day, luggage handlers every school holiday. Yeah let’s go back to nationlised unioned part time suppliers….not!

Hi Derek,
Like yourself I also thought that being able to increase the tariff price made a complete nonsense of the agreement with an energy company being in any sense ” a contract” ie until I caught up with the fact that if you give notice to the energy company within a specified time of them increasing the price that you do not accept the increase and you intend to join a new supplier, they have to keep to the old tariff for the remaining time you remain with them and they must not charge an early termination fee. Hope this helps and ALL posters please spread the word!

BanditQueen says:
27 December 2012

[Sorry Brandit, your comment breaks our commenting guidelines. We’re interested to hear your story, but please make sure it isn’t defamatory. Thanks, mods.]