Tag Archives: switching service

uSwitch.com Calls For Tougher Rules And Regulations To Govern Energy Doorstep And Direct Salesmen

uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, is calling on industry regulator Ofgem to bring out tougher rules and regulations to govern energy doorstep and direct salesmen, after new research revealed that their sales tactics are leaving people feeling pressured, intimidated and on the wrong energy plan for their needs.

According to the research, almost 7 million UK households have taken out an energy plan on their doorstep or through a direct salesperson. However, less than a quarter of people who have done so (22%) believe they got a good deal. Of these, only 6% said that it reduced their bills significantly while just 16% said that they were very pleased with the deal they took up. On the flip side, 17% found that their new deal cost them more money than the one they switched from and almost a quarter (22%) said that they could have done better elsewhere.

Over four in ten people (44%) think that direct sellers on their doorstep, high street, at the local supermarket and on the phone are a nuisance. But for some consumers it crosses the line into something altogether more sinister with 22% finding salespeople intimidating and 59% finding the process too pressured, preferring time to think and make their own mind up.

More than a third of people (37%) think that salespeople don’t present them with enough information to make an informed choice, while almost half (45%) don’t like the fact that salespeople only represent one energy supplier – they would prefer to know what all the companies are offering instead.

As a result of growing unease and, in some cases, outright distrust, 82% of consumers would not buy directly from a salesperson. Almost a third (32%) would like to see tighter regulation, but over half (53%) would like to see the practice banned. Despite the fact that many elderly and vulnerable customers prefer to buy face-to-face or with direct human contact, almost three quarters of consumers (72%) say that direct selling does not have a valuable role to play in helping these groups to switch.

According to Ofgem, over half of consumers who switched in the past year did so through a direct or doorstep seller and vulnerable and prepayment meter customers are more likely to switch in this way. This suggests that rather than an outright ban, the regulator should be looking to keep open this important route to market for vulnerable consumers, but make sure they are fully protected and able to get the same level of information as those consumers who are able to shop around or do their own research.

Although Ofgem is bringing in rules to ensure that direct sellers have to provide consumers with a written quotation, uSwitch.com would also like to see consumers given more information about the types of deals available to them and a prompt to research the market before signing on the dotted line.

Via EPR Network
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86% of People Fail Test to Make Energy Bill Add Up

A straightforward test to see whether consumers can calculate an energy bill correctly has thrown up some shock results – with 86% of people getting it wrong. Of more than 2,700 people taking part almost 2,400 failed to make the bill add up correctly, even though they were allowed to make notes and use a calculator.

The test is being run by uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, and is based on a mock-up of an energy bill with sub-totals blanked out. Consumers have to work out the missing numbers and calculate the end total. So far, it has left most people flummoxed. Despite being a common household bill only 379 people have arrived successfully at the correct total – a pass rate of only 14%.

Now more consumers are being urged to take part to see if they can do any better. The test can be found at: www.uSwitch.com/bill-challenge. People can also sign a petition for energy bills to be made simpler, clearer and easier:http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/betterbills/ – over 7,000 concerned consumers have already signed.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “You shouldn’t need to be an ‘A’ grade student to be able to understand your energy bills. It’s deeply worrying that only 14% of people have passed what should be a straightforward test – it serves to highlight the fact that large numbers of consumers are in danger of being excluded because energy bills are far more complicated than they need to be. Ofgem is looking to address this, but it’s vital that consumers make their voices heard too.”

Baffling Utility Bills Leave Consumers Confused, Bemused And Definitely Not Amused

Consumers are being left confused, badly informed and potentially vulnerable to debt because of the poor quality of some major household bills, according to uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. The warning comes after new research revealed stark differences in the standard of bills being issued by different industry sectors. While some are simple and straightforward for people to understand, others are leaving consumers totally confused.

Energy suppliers, water companies and home telephone and broadband providers are responsible for the most confusing household bills. Of these, energy bills appear to be the most complicated – three quarters (75%) of consumers find them confusing. Other utility providers are not doing much better either – 59% of consumers find their home telephone, broadband and DTV bills confusing, matched by those left confused by water bills (59%).

Worryingly, 68% of consumers find energy bills harder to understand than other household bills. On average households are spending £1,243 a year on energy bills, but only four in ten consumers (40%) find it easy to work out how their energy company has calculated their bill. Suppliers also seem to be failing to communicate on a basic level with their customers – only 39% of people think that their energy bills are written in plain English. Less than half (45%) think that the name of their energy plan is easy to understand.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are banks and building societies, where almost three quarters (72%) of consumers find their bills and statements simple and straightforward to understand. Personal finance companies generally seem to be issuing customer-friendly information in a format that most people can understand – just 41% of consumers find credit and store card bills confusing.

The findings suggest that the energy industry is lagging behind other sectors in being able to communicate simply and clearly with customers. This could leave consumers disadvantaged as energy bills account for a sizeable chunk of the average annual household budget. Experts also predict that energy bills will quadruple within the next 10 years. If consumers are to be able to manage this aspect of their budget, and be able to make an informed decision when switching, they need to be able to understand basic information such as their consumption, spend and tariff details.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Nobody likes bills, but they do play a fundamental part in the relationship between a company and its customers. A well-written, clear and concise bill should leave consumers feeling empowered and in control, not bemused. This is why it is so worrying to find that three quarters of us are confused by our energy bills.

“Ofgem has signalled its intention to work with suppliers on improving energy bills. This is a vital piece of work if we are to see well-informed consumers taking full advantage of the competitive energy market. If Ofgem is to succeed in making energy bills simpler, clearer and easier then it has to look outside of the energy industry for ideas on best practice. Judging by our research, it could do far worse than look to banks and building societies, which seem to be leading the way in providing consumers with bills and information they can easily understand.”

About uSwitch:
uSwitch.com is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and car insurance.

Via EPR Network
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Household Energy Bills to Hit Almost GBP5k in 10 Years Time

Consumers are being warned today that they could be facing annual energy bills of almost £5,000 a year by 2020. The shock forecast from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, is based on pricing trends over the last 5 years and takes into account the huge investment programme shortly to be undertaken by the energy industry and Government. The investment, expected to total £233.5 billion, will secure the country’s longer-term supply and enable the roll-out of smart metering into all homes, but will add £548 a year onto household energy bills for the next 15 years.


Looking at pricing trends alone, consumers could expect energy bills to reach £4,185 by 2020. This strips out the cost of investment, but factors in inflation and volatility in the wholesale markets, as seen by suppliers over the last 5 years. Since 2004, global demand for energy and volatility in wholesale prices have contributed to a 114% increase in household energy prices, including a 42% or £381 increase last year. The overall effect has been to see household energy bills more than doubling from £580 in 2004 to £1,243 today.

Volatility is expected to continue to be a dominant theme in the energy market going forward. Although the current world-wide recession is dampening demand for energy, the recession is due to end by 2011/12, when global demand for energy can be expected to start climbing again. Power hungry economies, such as China and India, will be returning to strength, resulting in an upward pressure on wholesale energy prices. At the same time, North Sea oil will start to run out adding greater pressure on the market. Wholesale energy prices account for around 50% of a household bill so continuing volatility will have an impact on the amount consumers will pay.

As well as upward pressure on household energy bills, there will be downward pressure too. The Government’s drive to make British households more energy efficient will start to pay dividends. But, instead of reducing bills it will serve to counterbalance other factors pushing energy usage up, such as the growth in single person households, Britain’s ageing population and growing reliance on electrical gadgets.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “This is a wake-up call for us all. The £5,000 a year energy bill may seem like an outside possibility, but we have to remember that energy bills doubled in the last five years alone and that the huge investment needed just to keep the lights on in Britain will alone add £548 a year onto our bills. The fact is we are entering a new era of high cost energy and households will have to adapt their behaviour accordingly.

“The Government has been banging the drum for energy efficiency for a while now, but consumers have been reluctant to spend money on these measures. As a result, energy efficiency has been massively underperforming even though it is one of the biggest defences we have against escalating energy costs. We also have a competitive energy market, and yet less than 5% of consumers are on the most competitive energy plans – most people are paying far more than they have to for the energy they use.

“This has to change. My advice to consumers is to invest in making your home more energy efficient, reduce the amount of energy you use and make sure you are paying the lowest possible price for it. Big projects such as a new energy efficient boiler or home insulation can be expensive, but the savings you make through cutting the price of your energy could be re-invested into energy efficiency measures so that you reap even greater rewards in the future.

“Don’t be put off. If cost is an issue, speak to your supplier to see if they can help – they have a pot of money available to help households with energy efficiency. Or contact the Energy Saving Trust for advice. The key thing is to start future-proofing yourself against higher energy bills now.”

About uSwitch:

uSwitch.com is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and car insurance.

Via EPR Network
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