New research has revealed that as little as four in ten consumers trust their energy supplier – 45% less than two years ago. Just one in ten said their trust for their supplier has increased.
The research, conducted by uSwitch, found that:
Just four in ten consumers (40%) trust energy suppliers
While one in ten consumers (10%) have come to trust energy suppliers more in the last two years, 45% have come to trust them less
Of those who distrust their supplier, almost half (48%) say it’s because they do not give good value for money while 37% blame a lack of openness or transparency
Those who do trust their supplier have been won over by easy-to-understand bills and information (49%), good customer service (43%), ease of communication (39%) and helpfulness (36%)
Over three quarters of consumers (79%) were satisfied with the last contact they had with their supplier, while others report improvements in service and attitude in the last year.
Complaints, poor customer service and record-high energy prices have all contributed to a fall in consumer trust, according to the latest research conducted by uSwitch. Over half of those who claim not to trust their supplier say it is because they aren’t good value for money. Transparency, a topic that is high on the government agenda in the ongoing energy reform, is the reason not to trust energy suppliers.
A quarter of respondents said they distrust their supplier because of consistently poor communication, from tariff information to billing. The news comes just days after Ofgem announced plans to overhaul how suppliers bill customers, minimise the number of tariffs available and automatically offer customers the cheapest deal available.
Tellingly, as the government tries to encourage households use better energy efficiency to reduce their bills, 33% of customers said they do not trust their supplier to help them to reduce their energy bills.
The research indicates that suppliers are getting it wrong at grass-root levels. Of those who do trust their suppliers, 49% said that good customer service was the core reason, whilst 39% claimed ease of communications. Helpfulness was the primary reason for 36%.
However, there were some optimistic signs of improvment, more than half of bill-payers had had contact with their suppliers in the last six months in addition to receiving their bill and three quarters were satisfied with what contact they had received.
Two in ten (19%) think their energy supplier has demonstrated that they want their custom while just over one in ten (13%) say that bills are clearer and easier to understand.
6% have seen an improvement in helpfulness and more focus on customer service, and 9% think that suppliers have made an effort to improve their image.
Breakdown in trust
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “The breakdown in trust between consumers and energy suppliers is symptomatic of a far deeper malaise. The simple fact is that this market is not working for consumers, which is why it’s now critical that Ofgem gets the prescription right and sets it firmly on the road to recovery.
“In a healthy market, competition forces prices down and innovation and service up – consumers feel empowered to vote with their feet and this in turn helps to keep companies on their toes.
“This isn’t happening in the energy market, and it’s no coincidence that just four in ten consumers trust suppliers at the same time as switching is at an all-time low. If we are to see this market succeed then Ofgem has got to turn this low-level of engagement around – this is the yardstick by which the success of its reforms should be measured.
“In the meanwhile, the good news for consumers is that suppliers do seem intent on pulling up their socks. But if you are unhappy with the progress being made, let your supplier know.
“Ultimately, you have the power and the choice to shop around – if your supplier wants to keep you then they will have to listen and respond. And of course there really is no reason for putting up with poor value for money – there is currently almost £250 difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs on the market.
“If you do not feel you are getting value for money you have the opportunity to vote with your feet and look elsewhere.”