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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?

J A Ainsworth says:
15 March 2012

If you change your enery company you might save in the very short term, but they all soon put up their charges and all benefit goes out of the window again!
The power companies should be nationalized. We should not be at the mercy of foreign owned companies and governments.
Tarifs should be simplified and made readily available. A few years ago when I was with Scottish Power I asked for a copy of their Tarifs. I never received one even though it was promised!
Also, after one winter I was told I was around £500.00 in credit. I rang and asked for it to be reinbursed which they didn’t want to do. I asked what interest they planned to pay me. I did get a cheque, but not for the full amount.
The sick and elderly should not be dying in winter due to hypothermia in a first world country such as ours. It is disgraceful and yet successive Governments don’t give a damn1

Alan B says:
15 March 2012

I would like simple tariffs so that I can make a fair judgement of what is my best deal. I am also against the various “lock ins” that companies routinely put on “page 99” of their small print.

So long as you owe nothing, or arrange to settle your bill, there should be no barriers against switching – it should cost no penalty and occur within a maximum peried [eg 14 days]. What happened to the service philosophy of “the client is always right”?

The stake that the French government [or other overseas government] has in energy firms operating in the UK is also a concern – if any government should have a stake it should be the UK’s ….

Bill Smith says:
15 March 2012

Of course the electricity and gas supply industry should be re-nationalised. Once the electricity or gas has been fed into the National Grid no one can identify who generated it when it comes out of the socket or gas burner in your home. Everyone should switch to one supplier and put the others out of business.
I am with the Coop. As a member I get dividend on my bill and a promise to distribute any excess profit to all the members.

Robert Shaw says:
15 March 2012

Scrap windfarms; they are expensive, inefficient and only benefit their builders and the energy companies.

Margaret S says:
15 March 2012

My complaint is about monthly direct debits. When I paid in this way, EON took the amount agreed for a few months, and then informed me that it was going up by a considerable amount, even though when I checked my account, I was several hundred pounds in credit! I refused this increase and eventually went back to quarterly bills (which I also pay by direct debit). At least I now feel that I am not lending them money during the summer months! I think that if a monthly direct debit is set up, it should not be altered for 12 months. It could then be adjusted to take account of the past year’s usage.
Secondly, there are too many alternative tariffs so if you wish to switch, a lot of calculations are required and one gives up in the end. There should be no more than three from each company.


Speak to e.on and discuss the credit balance on your past bills. I have done this and they agreed not to increase my direct debit for the time being. I was only about £100 in credit for the previous two bills.

Ernie Francis says:
15 March 2012

The problems for the consumer as I see them are;

1. We took a nationalised industry and privatised it in the hopes of getting competition and more consumer choice. What I think we have ended up with is a cartel between the six large companies and little or no competition as they all follow each other very closely and in the end you need to constantly switch and chase the lowest of them.

2. We need to have a big reduction in the number of tariffs and also a standard set of measures/units so that we can compare apples with apples.

3. We need very clear billing information once again a standard that they all use. This is not restricted to the energy companies it needs to apply to phone bills and other utility bills.

joyce wiles says:
15 March 2012

comparison sights are to confusing.
No one could possibly understand the way the bill works out what you have used and how it is priced
The bills should be written in a way that is easily understanable, if you ring and ask for an explanation no one in the call centre understands them, they just offer to send an explanation which you still cannot understand. VAT should be removed it is an ourage that it was ever put on something which is an absolute essential to living.
Prepaid meters should be charged at a lower rate, these are used by the most vulnerable people who are already on a low income. In any other trade you get a discount for paying up front.
Please do not write ‘bored of, it is BORED WITH.