Simon Read: Broken? The UK's energy market is in little pieces as far as confused consumers are concerned
Energy companies received a staggering 5.6 million complaints last year. That works out at around a fifth of all households in Britain. And that means that if you haven't been compelled to complain, then one of your neighbours probably has.
Does that come as a surprise? Sadly not. The energy companies have proved to be leaders in putting up prices and giving us bad service for many years.
The damning figures were published yesterday by consumer group Which? and prompted the following response from Energy UK, which is effectively a mouthpiece for the dominant Big Six power firms. It said: "When you are dealing with nearly 27 million customers things can occasionally go wrong."
Occasionally? That might be the right word to use if, say, things went wrong for one in 10,000 of us or even, at a stretch, one in 1,000. But "occasionally" is not the word I'd choose to describe an industry that generates complaints from one in five of its customers.
Feel free to choose your own word to describe the energy industry: I'm confident it won't be a positive one. The word that Which? executive director Richard Lloyd chose to use to describe the UK's energy market yesterday was "broken".
It's broken because customers are fed up with being hit with soaring bills while they see energy companies posting booming profits. For instance French giant EDF this week revealed that it raked in a £1.7bn profit last year, which analysts reckon mean it trousered £53 a second from its UK arm.
John Robertson, an MP who sits on the energy select committee, said the figure was "another disgraceful example of energy barons profiting from customer misery".
Bad feeling is now running so high that just one in five customers trust the energy suppliers while eight in 10 are worried about rising bills, according to Which? research. It says "the energy market is not working for its customers" and yesterday demanded a full inquiry.
It wants the regulators to refer the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority and is asking energy companies to end practices that unfairly increase costs and damage customer service.
It also says the big six energy companies' supply and generation businesses should be separated to reduce concerns that they could be manipulating prices to their own advantage. It has called on the Government to control costs added to consumers' bills and to make the Green Deal fairer.
"Millions of people are unhappy with the service they receive from the suppliers which, combined with low levels of trust, is yet more evidence that more must be done to fix the broken energy market," said Mr Lloyd.
Earlier this week energy Secretary Ed Davey called on regulators to investigate the profits being made by the Big Six companies through supplying gas.
The LibDem MP wants Ofgem to examine whether profit margins, in some cases five times higher for gas than for supplying household electricity, should be the subject of a market investigation.
If there is evidence of a monopoly, as many believe, then the likes of British Gas, by far the biggest of our energy suppliers, could be forced to be broken up.
There are lots of issues here but the heart of it is this: we should be able to afford to heat and light our homes and know we're paying a fair price for energy.
Ensuring that all of us, especially vulnerable people, can afford adequate heating requires government intervention and aid. Making the energy market fair has to involve breaking the current stranglehold of the Big Six.
- 1 Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 Nineteen-year-old student left gifts for parents before taking her own life
- 4 Deliberately urinating before sex can increase risk of urinary tract infections
- 5 Winston Churchill: From accusations of anti-Semitism to the blunt refusal that led to the deaths of millions
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
David Cameron says anyone criticising Eric Pickles' letter to Muslims 'really has a problem'
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village