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SSE: how we’re making energy bills clearer

Confused man

Does your energy bill confuse you? Here’s Will Morris of the energy supplier SSE on what they’ve been doing to improve their energy bills.

Complex bills are one of the biggest bugbears for bill payers but the majority of information included on them is stipulated by rules which in many cases govern both content and format.

All the information included on energy bills is there for the right reasons, to help and inform customers, but over the years the amount of information included has grown to the point where the bill becomes cluttered and confusing.

Improving energy bills

SSE bill page 1Working with customers and consumers groups, including Which?, we at SSE have been trying to work out how to improve bills for customers. Our research has shown that customers want to be able to find the essential information they need (price, due date, account information etc) quickly, as well as a little more detail and important information such as contact details.

In general, customers have said they don’t want their bill to be more than two sides of a piece of paper and they want it presented in an attractive, clear style. We have designed a new bill which research has shown is easier to use, clearer and more engaging. Customers have told us that the design flows better and makes it easier to find key information.

We think the new design goes a long way to solve the issues, but there is of course more work to be done.

So what to do?

We support the work Ofgem is doing to improve the rules that govern what goes on an energy bill. But the most important people in this whole process are the customers, because you are the ones that have to read and understand your bill when you receive it.

So, what do you think can be improved about bills? Does our new design make it easier to find the information you need? What don’t you understand on your current bill? Would you be more likely to read your bill if it was more attractive like our new design? We need to know what you think if we’re going to make bills better for everyone.

This is a guest contribution by Will Morris, Group Managing Director at SEE. All opinions are Will’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

I am all for a simplified presentation. What seems to be missing here are the dates of the usage period and the dates payments were made.

I suggest without the graphics this bill could be condensed to a single page.

However I see no reason not to then have a more comprehensive explanation of the bill. For example we know that raw energy forms only about 42% of the bill, so the amounts in government levies, transmission costs, administration charges for example, and so on, could be broken out in a supplement for those interested. It would also be helpful to see just how the standing charge is made up; this varies from supplier to supplier and causes some ire. Just what is charged as a fixed amount for everyone, and why?

Member

In the pdf example you’ve linked, I’m sure 5% of £79.29 isn’t £1.75. Surely is more like £3.96 which will then make everything else wrong.

In the example you also have a section stating that you could save £10 by switching to a cheaper tariff. Are you using Ofgem laughably flawed rules to calculate that? FYI for those that don’t know OFGEMs rules assume that if you’re on a fixed tariff for part of the year that the comparison is done against, then utility companies are allowed to assume that you’d switch to their standard tariff. Which means they can sneakly up prices yet still show a saving.

Member

Sorry about this, on page 1 you show the units used for gas and electricity. For the gas is that cubic feet or meters? On page 2 you state the kWh used for the gas as 1263.71 where’s the explanation of how that’s calculated Are you assuming a Calorific Value ( CV ) of 39.3 ? If so where’s that stated.

Member

well spotted william, a gas meter will record volume used – used to be cubic feet, now cubic meters. As the calorific value varies from time to time the volume needs converting to get the energy (kWh, units) used. So the reading (40 cu.m used) needs converting by multiplying by a multiplier, a conversion factor ( for site pressure and temperature) and the calorific value (currently 1, 1.02264 and 39.1 in my case) and dividing by 3.6. This simplifies to multiplying the cu. m by 11.1; so 40 cu.m used should equate to 444 kWh or “units”.

Calorific value is continuously measured by transco and given to energy companies daily.

This sort of information should be part of the supplementary page I suggested. Some people are interested in details.

Member

Impressive but I’m a bit confused about the cubic meter. 😉

Member

is it the same as a cubic metre?

Member

jnazz99, a cubic meter (USA) is a cubic metre (UK). My typo.

A UK cubic meter, as no doubt wavechange gleefully spotted, is a gas meter with all sides of equal length.

I wonder if the USA has, to avoid confusion, gas metres?

Member

Not to be confused with meter and metre in music. 🙂

Malcolm – I only mentioned it because you thought that I hadn’t spotted a typo in another discussion. Typos are best ignored ……. unless they are amusing.