Consumers lacking confidence to switch

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JUST four per cent of householders believe the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers are trying to keep prices down for their customers, according to new research.

The survey of over 2,000 adults, who are currently customers of energy suppliers British Gas, E.ON, npower, EDF, ScottishPower and SSE, found that almost a third expect to switch to smaller suppliers at some point in the next three years.

But Gocompare.com, the comparison website, which commissioned the survey, suggested that this intention is hampered by a lack of confidence among consumers.

Even though 25 per cent of those surveyed said that they would be happy to switch to a smaller, independent energy provider, 17 per cent said they would not, and one in four thought it likely that they would still be with one of the ‘Big Six’ suppliers in three years’ time.

The ‘Big Six’ energy firms supply 98 per cent of homes. They angered the public by unveiling above inflation price rises at the end of last year.

In December, the six utilities agreed they would pass on savings from a government plan to shift some of its environmental taxes away from companies in an effort to cut soaring energy bills in the run-up to a 2015 election.

Gocompare’s research found that, when asked why they said ‘no’ to switching to a smaller energy provider, 68 per cent of respondents said it was because they wouldn’t have heard of them; and 22 per cent said that all energy companies are the same so they would stick to what they know.

The survey also revealed confusion among consumers when it comes to their bills and tariffs, with 22 per cent saying: “I find energy bills are so confusing that they put me off shopping around.”.

Meanwhile, 19 per cent agreed with the statement: “I’ve compared energy tariffs but the choice was bewildering so I stayed put.”

A further 22 per cent said: “I’d be more likely to switch if it didn’t take four to six weeks to move from one supplier to the next.”

The survey found that 12 per cent of people said that they’d never switched their energy provider or tariff.

Jeremy Cryer, Gocompare.com’s energy spokesperson, said: “With the cost of energy certain to remain a hot topic for hard-pressed households this year, our research reveals a worrying lack of confidence among consumers when it comes to switching providers.

“The findings also flagged up people’s concerns with switching to smaller suppliers, including a lack of trust and fears that they could go out of business and result in energy supplies being cut off, but there really is no need to be worried about switching away from the big energy comp- anies.

“Smaller, independent providers can offer competitive deals and often far better customer service than their ‘Big Six’ counterparts, so it’s well worth looking into what they have to offer.

“While politicians try to find ways to alleviate the financial impact of green levies and other factors on people’s bills, and Ofgem attempts to simplify tariffs and introduce measures to demystify the energy market, householders can take control of their energy spend themselves by shopping around regularly.”

Meanwhile, Labour has promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if elected. But Energy Secretary Ed Davey recently dismissed Labour’s plans for a price freeze.

He called for Britain to be part of a fully integrated European power market to bring bills down.

The Liberal Democrat insisted a giant network of underground and under-sea cables allowing energy to be shifted between the UK and mainland Europe would push down prices.

suzan.uzel@ypn.co.uk