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Vox pops: What would you change about the energy industry?

We’ve been out-and-about on our UK tour to talk to people about their energy-related concerns. From complex bills to huge price rises – here are some of the things people have told us.

You’ve heard us say this before, but the cost of energy is the number one financial concern for UK consumers.

And because we’re campaigning on behalf of everyone across the UK, we want to make sure we’re not just talking to MPs and companies, but also listening to the real problems people are facing.

One way is to listen to your comments here on Which? Conversation, but another is to go out on the streets and talk to people direct.

So, you might have seen our huge neon pound sign (one MP described it as ‘kryptonite’ – think we should take it as a compliment?) out and about in shopping centres around the country – this is where we’ve be asking for your energy concerns and we’ll continue until 18 March.

Steve asks why price cuts take longer than price rises

‘The fluctuation in wholesale prices – the minute they go up the companies put the prices up.

‘Then they take three, six, nine months and whittle away at the price reduction long after the wholesale price has gone down.’

Geoff thinks energy companies create a fog for you to get lost in

‘When you go on the websites or when you investigate the different tariffs they’re far too confusing. As a consequence of that one tends to give up and accept that you may be £50 per year less well-off.

‘There’s a distinctive lack of clarity in the way the whole system works – the way in which the energy companies seem to create a fog which you get lost in and end up paying more money.’

Gary finds energy bills virtually incomprehensible

‘I’m a qualified chartered accountant and I find the bills virtually incomprehensible.

‘So, could you please try to simplify them so that ordinary people can understand the bills and the basis of charging?’

Nikki finds the energy industry confusing

As for me, I’ve got lots of personal gripes about energy companies – I used to be a serial switcher so I’ve had my fair share of experience. But I think my main worry is that it’s so confusing.

I’ve been with Which? for over a year and worked really closely with the campaigns team on energy issues, and there are still so many things that baffle me and have me running to more knowledgeable colleagues in our team shouting ‘why?! I don’t understand!’

One of the common themes coming out of the events is also the lack of clarity in communication. Not just bills, but tariff information and websites – it all seems quite confusing. And that’s just when they tell you about it – one person issued a plea to her energy company:

‘When you change your tariffs to something cheaper – tell me about it!’

So, how about you? Do you agree with the comments above, or have you got other things you’d like to say to the energy industry?

Comments
Guest
CSE, Bristol says:
9 March 2012

Lot’s of people we speak to find their energy bills ‘incomprehensible’ which is why we added these pages to our website:
http://www.cse.org.uk/understanding-your-electricity-bill
http://www.cse.org.uk/understanding-your-gas-bill
Downloadable leaflets also available.
Hope this helps

Guest
Alan says:
9 March 2012

Energy companies are making excuses that the Governments commitment to these absurd, hideous wind farms are the cause of high energy charges and as usual that is a ridiculous excuse for such high charges to the consumer.These Wind Farms are not only unsightly and a blight on the countryside, but they also cause more damage to the environment than fossil fuels ever did.

Guest

I think the energy industry should be nationalised

Guest
Sophie Gilbert says:
9 March 2012

Totally agree.

Guest
Mike says:
14 March 2012

Note: EDF is a French national government owned corporation.

Until November 19, 2004, EDF was a state-owned corporation, but it is now a limited-liability corporation under private law (société anonyme), after its status was changed by statute. The French government partially floated shares of the company on the Paris Stock Exchange in November 2005, although it retained almost 85% ownership as of the end of 2008.
Source – Wikipedia
Since EDF is state owned, the French government will arguably have more control over energy prices in this country than our own government. Ownership of the biggest eight companies in the British energy market will comprise 34 per cent British, 32 per cent French, 27 per cent German, and 7 per cent Spanish.
Source: Independent Thursday 25 September 2008

Guest

It used to be nationalised, I worked for it (the CEGB) and I totally agree. Privatisation has in most cases (if not all) been to the consumers detriment, with fragmentation, duplication, obfuscation and, worst of all, no overall energy policy. The CEGB used to do the planning and the National Grid was part of it with all the distribution companies local to the area. I certainly do not remember the plethora of tariffs that now confuse us so much.
Mike’s comment are apposite, we did not protest much at privatisation, it was regarded as interfering in political decisions, although my trade union (the EPEA) did make all sorts of predictions regarding the future of the industry which have, in great part, come true. The French power workers on the other hand threatened to shut the whole of France down if their industry was privatised some 15 – 20 years ago and their government would not face this threat and backed down. It has taken until now for anything to happen and even now it is still state controlled.

Guest
Twizla says:
9 March 2012

I got home last night to my gas statement saying I was still in credit (I have been £135 in credit throughout the winter) and am now £30.00 in credit. This is good news I thought – no? I then turned to page two to find they are increasing my monthly direct debit payments by £5.00 a month! British Gas – seriously?

Guest

You’re lucky – I was in credit too with EDF – but they decided to DOUBLE my monthly direct debit – until I got in touch and became rather aggressive – They said they’d send a letter of apology – they didn’t – but they did remove the increase.