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npower and SSE commit to simplifying energy bills

The energy giants have both revealed new energy bill designs aimed at making it easier for customers to understand their consumption

energy billnpower’s new energy bill was created following an 18 month design process which was carried out with input from more than 400 customers. This research found that energy bills are considered the most confusing and complicated household bills.

SSE’s design was produced with input from more than 1,000 customers and highlights the 10 pieces of information selected as most valuable to consumers.

Adjusting to customers’ needs

npower found there were two main types of customers: those only interested in the final amount and due date of the bill, and those who want a detailed overview of their energy consumption. The report labelled the first group “skimmers” and the latter “checkers”.

As a result, npower’s new bills are structured to provide skimmers with the information they are interested in at the top and checkers with a more in-depth “facts section”. The bills also include advice on cutting energy use and have removed much of the jargon consumers have complained about.

‘A sigh of relief from consumers’

Tom Lyon, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Today’s announcement will be met with a sigh of relief from consumers, who have struggled with over-complicated bills and tariffs for years. Confusion has dogged the energy industry, so it’s great to see npower, along with other suppliers, showing a clear determination to tackle these issues once and for all. And it can’t come soon enough – 86% of consumers find energy bills too complicated while almost three quarters (73%) are unable to work out whether there has been a mistake on their bill.

“npower has also revealed its plan to reduce the number of tariffs it offers to four to ‘cut out the clutter’ and make it easier for consumers to compare tariffs and get a better deal. With the high cost of energy today, this is a very important move, as consumers can no longer afford to miss out on the opportunity to cut their costs. It also shows a willingness to support Ofgem’s market reforms and a commitment to improve how it treats customers.

“In addition, npower is introducing a daily direct debit discount to replace its current annual one. This is great news as the discount you can earn will remain the same, but now you don’t have to be locked in for 12 months before getting it. This means that consumers will be freer to shop around and to move to a better deal without being penalised.”

Four new energy tariffs

The number of energy tariffs available through npower will be reduced to four by October 2013, in an attempt to make it easier for customers to select the most appropriate plan for them. The new plans include a number of fixed price tariffs ranging from one to three years in length and a new standard variable plan.

npower has also announced plans to replace its annual direct debit discount with a daily discount, meaning customers are not tied to the company for 12 months.

Necessary improvements

The announcements follow claims from Ofgem that British consumers are being “bamboozled” by the big six. The energy regulator said customers were being confused by complex bills and called for energy companies to simplify information.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, agreed and called on suppliers to take example on companies in the banking and personal financial sectors. She also pointed out that complex bills reduced the odds of consumers spotting a mistake and could lead to overcharging.

‘A simple and clear new bill’

npower’s CEO Paul Massara, said: “At the start of the year, I announced our intention to be number one for customer experience – and said we had to get back to the fundamentals of how we treat our customers.”

“We’ve been reviewing the way we do things and talking to hundreds of our customers: based on their feedback, we’ve created a simple and clear new bill that I believe is the best in the industry. We are also cutting the number of tariffs down to four by October, and are moving our customers onto them.

“Together, these two changes will make it much easier for customers to understand how much energy they are using, what they are paying for and whether they are on the best possible tariff.”

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