Do you remember our ‘Simpler, Clearer, Easier’ campaign for better energy bills?
We launched it last year because many people find their energy bills confusing, which leaves them badly informed and even vulnerable to debt. The problem is compounded because energy bills account for such a sizeable chunk of the average annual household budget.
According to research we carried out in June 2009, only 39% of people think their energy bills are written in plain English and only 4 in 10 find it easy to work out how they are calculated.
So we set up a petition in July 2009, calling on the government to do something about the issue and over 8,800 people signed it.
And last week we finally got the following response from the government:
“Giving people information about their consumption helps them to control it and its cost, which in turn contributes to reducing energy use. It also fits with a broader agenda of empowering people to take control of their lives. We are currently exploring the most effective ways of providing consumers with information on bills. It is important that they receive information that is accurate, relevant and helps them to reduce their energy costs.
“Following its probe into energy supply markets the industry regulator, Ofgem introduced a number of changes to the information presented on consumers’ bills, including the provision of an annual statement. Bills now contain information on the customer’s tariff, energy consumption for the last 12 months and projected costs. From July 2010 annual statements will be issued by suppliers, which will contain this information plus the principal terms and conditions of the tariff and any premiums or discounts as compared with the supplier’s standard monthly direct debit tariff. Suppliers have until December 2010 to issue the first statement to all of their customers.
“In addition, energy suppliers have acted voluntarily in the past on billing, with the introduction of The Billing Code in 2006, which 5 of the big 6 have signed up to; this sets out what customers can expect from their suppliers on bills and introduced some protection for consumers receiving bills for periods over a year ago.
“This is a good start, but more can be done to empower consumers, and put them in control of their energy costs. That is why we have committed that energy bills should tell consumers about their supplier’s cheapest tariff and how their consumption compares to similar households. The Coalition published its programme for Government on 20 May and you may be particularly interested to read the section on energy and climate change, which sets out a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy. A copy of the programme is available on the Cabinet Office website: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/409088/pfg_coalition.pdf.”
What do you make of it? Is this enough to improve our energybills, or is further action needed?