Energy companies failing to gain customer trust, consumer group finds

Just one in six consumers trust energy companies to act in customers’ best interests

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The Independent Online

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 and 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 whether they trust their gas and electricity supplier and the answer was a resounding ‘no’. In fact the figures published today show that only one in five people trust suppliers to charge a fair price for their energy while more than half say it’s difficult to compare the prices of different energy deals.

Meanwhile just one in six consumers trust 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 consumers need a credible, independent benchmark – a ‘price to beat’. They want energy suppliers to compete against this ‘price to beat’, which would be set and regularly updated by the energy market regulator.

It’s launched a new Fair Energy Prices campaign today calling 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 fair.

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

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director 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're not being ripped off. 

“Meanwhile, energy companies should use simple pricing to increase confidence in the industry and boost competition by encouraging switching.”