Majority of Brits distrust all energy suppliers
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Central Government
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Energy suppliers are mistrusted by a large amount of the British public, new research has revealed.
A poll of 10,000 adults commissioned by the Smart Meter Central Delivery Body (SMCDB) has found that 51% of Brits do not trust any energy supplier, while many reported suffering significant levels of confusion and anxiety about energy bills.
The lack of trust is greatest among low income and vulnerable people, with almost six in ten (57%) of those living in fuel poverty or with a disability wary of any energy supplier.
However, distrust was found to be significantly lower amongst people who have a smart meter. More than four in ten (42%) who did not have a smart meter replied ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ to the statement “I do not trust my energy supplier”. But the figure fell to under a third (30%) amongst those who did have a smart meter.
More than a third (37%) of respondents said they are concerned that their energy bills are not accurate, while an even larger number are in the dark about their usage – over two fifths (41%) of respondents were worried that they are paying for more energy than they consume, and one in ten did not know how much they were currently paying for energy.
More than a third (36%) said that they do not understand their energy bill.
And compounding the widespread uncertainty and dissatisfaction among consumers, few people questioned feel easily able to alter the situation they are in.
The survey found that over two fifths (43%) of respondents do not believe they have the information needed to choose the right energy tariff, while nearly as many (39%) were not confident they had enough information to select the right supplier.
The government is currently leading a programme to install smart meters in more than 25 million households across Great Britain, and created SMCDB to lead public engagement during the roll-out.
Smart meters enable consumers to see their energy usage in real-time in pounds and pence.
Even though the programme is in its early stages, nearly half (44%) of consumers have expressed an interest in having a smart meter installed in their homes.
Sacha Deshmukh, SMCDB chief executive, said: “Our research shows that more than half of the population feel they cannot trust any energy supplier. In an era when we are able to compare, record and track our household spending more easily than ever before, two in five of us have no idea whether we’re paying too much for our energy.
"Antiquated systems for recording energy use and managing billing are no longer fit for purpose.
“Households need to be able to take control of their energy use and bills. For this to happen, the national smart meter roll-out is the essential transformation of the technology we use to buy energy. It will create newly empowered consumers, and increase trust in those who sell us gas and electricity – and our research bears this out.
“Today, still over a year ahead of the start of the mass roll-out of smart meters, almost half of consumers told us that they are interested in having a smart meter installed in their homes. That is why it is so important that government is driving forward the programme to install smart meters across Great Britain and has brought together all the electricity and gas suppliers and networks to deliver this critical upgrade to the energy infrastructure in all of our homes.”
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: "There is a crisis of trust in the energy industry. Sky-high prices, a lack of transparency and mis-selling scandals have blown a hole in the public's faith in energy companies.
“Households are struggling to cope with energy costs which have gone up seven times faster than earnings since 2010. One in five people is falling behind with their energy bills. A lack of trust in suppliers can act as a barrier to getting the best deal for some consumers, putting extra pressure on their finances.
"Consumers desperately need an energy market which is fair, transparent and competitive. Years of poor treatment means the loss of trust in energy firms cannot be rebuilt overnight. The investigation into competition in the energy industry is long overdue and must lead to fundamental reforms which increase transparency, open up the market to new providers and which put consumers first."
“The best way to cut household energy bills is to help people use energy in smarter ways. The roll out of smart meters needs to make sure that devices are giving householders accurate information on how and when they use the most energy, so they can easily make savings. Given the costs of the smart meter roll out it is vital that they bring real benefits to consumers and help them save energy and save money.”