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What would make you trust energy companies?

High price for energy and gasoline in a news article headline

We’ve seen price rise announcements from four of the Big Six energy suppliers – unsurprisingly the reaction has been resoundingly negative. In fact, our research shows trust in energy suppliers has hit rock bottom.

Consumer trust in the energy industry has plummeted to a new low.

Just one in seven people say they trust energy companies to act in their best interest – the lowest since our Consumer Insight Tracker launched in July 2012. This compares to one in four before the price rises were announced.

Low trust in the energy industry

In fact, energy is now the most distrusted of all consumer industry sectors (59%), lower than banking (33%), car salesmen (55%) and train companies (27%).

Which? Convo commenter Charlie isn’t surprised, telling us:

‘I don’t trust energy companies to act in my best interest. But then they are private companies and are interested, primarily, in generating profit. Can we expect them to put the customer first without a strong regulatory body to ensure they do?’

Chris had harsh words for the energy companies and the government too:

‘The whole stinking corrupt setup is a national disgrace which will kill people and our Government just sits there playing with itself and only offering “helpful” advice like put on another jumper or switch to an equally expensive alternative supplier. Rubbish.’

Take action on energy bills

We’ve also found that the number of people worrying about energy prices has rocketed. Energy is now top of the list of consumer worries – eight in ten people are worried about energy prices, the highest this has been since October last year.

What we’ve heard from the Government so far is too little, too late – we need to see radical changes now. This is why we’re calling on the Chancellor to stand up for consumers when he delivers his Autumn Statement on 4 December.

George Osborne should cut the Big Six down to size to get competition into the market, and the cost of government energy policies should be cut back too. You can help by signing our petition, like Beryl has:

‘Time for action NOW. The debate has gone on long enough. It’s now up to George O to break the deadlock before the winter sets in so keep the campaign going Which?’

Do you trust energy companies to work in your best interest? Do you think we need to see radical action to fix the energy market?

Do you trust energy companies to act in your best interest?

No (97%, 2,139 Votes)

Don't know (2%, 45 Votes)

Yes (1%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,214

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Comments
Member

My top priority is to have simple unit prices for both gas and electricity, so that the prices offered by different companies can be compared at a glance. We can easily compare the cost of petrol and diesel, so why not gas and electricity?

Member

wavechange, a recurring plea that is not black and white. If you want a choice between say variable price, one or more fixed tariffs, economy 7 (and more complex time-based pricing with smart meters) it will never be a simple choice. As for no standing charge, some companies do offer this option for low users, so you can compare “simple” unit prices. Some of the components of the current standing charge can be argued as independent of usage – perhaps these should be moved to general taxation. Others – your suppliers administration costs, meter reading, maintaining the equipment that connects you to the grid, could be argued as costs we should all pay. A minimum standing charge of some sort could be then seen as fair. But it is far from clearcut how it should be set. At present we all have choices – I am in favour of maintaining choice so we can get the best overall deal.
Petrol and diesel prices may seem easier to compare – but how similar are they to each other in your area? In mine there is not much difference – is there real competition here? And remember, these fuels do not come delivered to your door – you have to drive to get them, and your best price might not be your nearest. Do you work out the cost of driving to and from the fuel station and factoring into the litre price to see if you get the best deal? The real cost is not so obvious.

Member

Malcolm

What you are wanting is for low users to subsidise those who use more gas and electricity. Please give some thought to those who are struggling to pay their fuel bills. Energy costs are a major concern to many in the UK.

Perhaps there is a case for moving standing charges to be moved to general taxation, but that is a challenge for the future. Please, please don’t expect low users to subsidise those who use more energy.

The elderly, infirm and disadvantaged people are not necessarily capable of finding the best energy deal.

Member

wavechange – no, that is not what I want to see as you know from previous conversations. Low user does not equate to poor – there are plenty of low users such as holiday home and second home owners, people with small and very well insulated properties, those with heat pumps and solar panels, who may use relatively little energy. Equally there are bigger families in larger houses, old properties that are poorly insulated, those only on electricity, who are poor – many examples have been given in previous conversations. So please let us not assume that low user means poor and higher user means wealthy in all cases – it doesn’t.
There are suppliers who charge only for units used without a standing charge – I have given some of these on another conversation. So for a small user these may well offer the best option and cheapest bill. Remember the unit charge then carries a contribution towards fixed costs. For higher users a standing charge may give them the better solution.
I could argue that the small user – rich or poor – pays very little towards the fixed costs involved, and therefore is subsidised by the higher user – but I won’t, because the arguments are simply not that simple.
We should have a choice – that is what other “stakeholders” (I wish we could abolish that word), consumer groups and others that were consulted have decided, and what Ofgem proposes. I like choice. It is not a simple world in all sorts of matters, and trying to make it so by artificially distorting markets is not the way to tackle it.

Member

You are not going to convince me, Malcolm. I am not the only one who would like standing charges abolished and energy prices simplified, so that it is very easy to compare prices.

No-one should have to resort to websites, phone calls or calculations just to decide which company to buy energy from, and expecting low users to subsidise high users as a result of standing charges is unacceptable.

Member
pouchla says:
4 November 2013

I agree

Member

Wavechange,
Rest assured you are not the only person who would like standing charges abolished.
They are the biggest con going, pay before you actually consume anything how is that fair?
All companies have fixed costs but they don’t all resort to this con trick.

And yes do away with standing charges and multiple-tier tariffs and choosing the best value supplier becomes very easy. No more working through endless options to establish the most competitive. If I want to do puzzles I’d prefer to do puzzles that don’t end up costing me money should I not get them right.

Member

Thanks Chris. We can both remember previous Conversations where there was plenty of support for simple pricing, and I doubt that this has changed. Of course, the companies and shareholders probably don’t want customers to be able to make simple price comparisons, in the same way that supermarkets often fail to give unit pricing for multi-buy offers. I have little faith in Ofcom or governments – present and past.

I heard in the news that the CEO of Centrica, which owns British Gas, has decided not to take his bonus this year because of public concern about rising prices. I am not sure of the figure because different reports quote different amounts. I accept that companies have to make a profit but I suspect that the staff and shareholders are being considered more than customers – and that has to change.