Belfast Telegraph

Energy firms feeling heat as customers tell of mistrust

By Simon Read

Surprise, surprise, we don't trust energy companies.

Why? Apart from ever-rising prices and shoddy service, there have been many cases of mis-selling in recent times, as well as plenty of examples of seemingly deliberately confusing pricing designed to ensure that only the most dedicated customers can track down the best deals.

Consumer group Which? asked people if they trusted their gas and electricity suppliers, and the answer was a resounding no. In fact, the published figures showed that only one in five people trusts suppliers to charge a fair price for their energy, and more than half think it is difficult to compare the prices of different energy deals.

Meanwhile, just one in six consumers trusts energy companies to act in customers' best interests, and only a quarter rate their supplier as good at offering them a fair price.

The results have persuaded the consumer group that customers need a credible, independent benchmark – a price to beat. Which? wants energy suppliers to compete against this price to beat, which would be set and regularly updated by the energy market regulator.

The group has launched a Fair Energy Prices campaign that calls for the Competition and Markets Authority – as part of its current investigation into the energy market – to investigate the best way for the regulator to establish a price to beat so that consumers can trust that the price they pay is actually fair.

Which? said energy suppliers should also be made to use simple, directly comparable pricing – similar to petrol pump displays – so that people can more easily compare prices and make the best choice if they switch.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "The energy market remains at rock bottom for consumer trust. Millions of customers still don't think they're paying a fair price and most people find it hard to compare deals.

"Big reforms are needed to restore confidence in the industry and to guarantee fairer energy prices for consumers.

"The Competition and Markets Authority should now investigate how the independent regulator could establish a price people can trust. That will spur suppliers to compete and reassure worried consumers that they are not being ripped off.

"Energy companies should also use simple pricing to increase confidence in the industry and boost competition by encouraging switching."

Belfast Telegraph