11th August 2015
Despite the grumbles energy firms inspire, a third of consumers cannot be bothered actually reading their bills claims a new study.
The analysis from comparison site uSwitch.com found that people only tend to look at the amount they need to pay as opposed to paying any attention to the detail included.
The group has warned that by avoiding checking information like energy usage, or if the bill is based on an actual or estimated reading, consumers run a greater risk of missing errors or getting into high amounts of credit or debt with suppliers.
The findings also revealed that, even though customers could save hundreds of pounds by switching to a different tariff, less than one in 10, at 8%, use the information on their bill to compare prices or switch supplier. Elsewhere in the new study, consumers consider washing up dishes, going food shopping and doing the laundry as more important than paying bills.
The survey coincides with the launch of uSwitch’s ‘Compare, Switch, Save’ iPhone app which includes new QR (Quick Response) code scanning functionality, which aims to help people to switch suppliers or shop around for better deals at home or on the go. Following new Government rules, all major energy suppliers are now required to display QR codes on bills to help consumers get an instant cross-market comparison. Each code contains information about the customer’s current tariff, energy consumption, postcode and other information needed to easily search the market for the best deals.
Those aged 55 and over read bills in most detail, studying them to understand their usage – with 47% doing so compared to the average of 38%. In contrast, 18-34 year olds pay the least attention to their bills, with just 30% studying them in any detail.
There is also a wide gap in understanding energy bills amongst age groups. Some 49% of 18-34 year olds are the most likely to call on help to understand their bills but are also the least likely, at 14%, to have the confidence to provide others with advice.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “The number of people turning a blind eye to their bills is extremely concerning. There is a huge and very real risk that people are missing errors or racking up significant debt. And bills don’t always deliver bad news – those leaving bills unopened could find their provider actually owes them money. In fact, we recently found that 12m homes could reclaim over £1bn of credit from energy suppliers.
“Bills should be easy to understand and not create feelings of dread. QR codes could be a real game changer by breaking down consumer apathy, especially among younger people who are time-poor but tech savvy. Our new app is designed to equip people with clear information on current deals available to them. People should feel empowered to take the cost of their energy bills into their own hands using their mobile and switch more regularly.”
Lord Bourne, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales; Energy and Climate Change, added: “We will continue to work closely with energy suppliers and comparison websites to ensure the services they provide meet the needs of British bill payers, so they can get the best price that works for them.”