Accountant fails energy bill test

| September 22, 2011
Accountant fails energy bill test

Energy tariffs are so complicated that even an accountant could not calculate how much they should be paying, according to latest research from Which?.

The consumer group asked 36 people including a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant, to work out their domestic energy bill using only the information from the supplier’s website, and a calculator, pencil and paper or Excel.

Only one, a company director, proved successful.

According to Which? the complexity of bills and tariffs mean suppliers can get away with “tricks and caveats”, including tiered pricing that penalises low users and discounts that don’t materialise.

With households facing energy price rises of between 10% and 20% this winter, Which? says it is vital that people are able to work out their bills and check they’re paying the right price.

The watchdog has therefore launched an Affordable Energy Campaign to help people spend as little as possible, and is calling on regulator, Ofgem, to introduce one simple format for all tariffs, as part of its ongoing review of the retail market.

Should that day come, people would be able to compare tariffs at a glance and easily see which is cheapest.

Earlier this week, Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, promised to “get tough” with the UK six biggest energy companies, forcing them to make it easier for consumers to pick out the best suppliers and switch providers.

British Gas, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern, Npower, E On and EDF could also be challenged by new competition, which the minister says he is keen to encourage.

Meanwhile, Which? will carry on campaigning for a standardised format for tariffs comprising: a daily charge covering fixed costs and a unit rate covering the actual energy used.

The idea is so simple that energy companies may have difficulty engaging with it.

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