Only a tiny fraction of British electricity consumers understand on the ins and outs of their electricity bills.
The low number of people able to read an electricity meter is only one of the surprising findings revealed by a survey from Powershop, an online electricity retailer, which recently investigated the attitudes of over 2,000 British consumers towards their energy suppliers.
Although switching gas and electricity suppliers can help customers save significantly on monthly bills, the survey shows that many are still not taking advantage of this simple fact.
Of the people surveyed, Powershop found that 16% had never switched, whilst almost half of them hadn’t switched providers in the last two years. Men were more likely to have switched in the same time period than women.
The survey explored the stress that comes with changing suppliers. It points to the jargon used by energy suppliers, and a lack of experience when it comes to dealing with household bills.
Only 2% of the 2,000 respondents knew how to read an electricity dial meter correctly. Based on this, Powershop suggest that the arrival of smart meters in peoples’ homes should help with general understanding. Only one in five respondents knew what a ‘dual fuel tariff’ – which involves getting both gas and electricity through the same provider – was.
People said that cooking their first Christmas dinner was less difficult than understanding their energy bill. Energy bills were considered more stressful than negotiating a new phone or TV contract, too.
Over half of British people feel anxious when they open letters or communications from their suppliers, according to the survey. The fear of shock bills outperformed ‘asking someone out’ or meeting a partners’ parents for the first time for a quarter of participants, who rated it ‘extremely stressful’.
For 23% of men, a shock energy bill was seen as more stressful than a job interview.
Millenials, or more specifically 25 – 35 year olds, were the most likely to put surprise bills in the ‘extremely stressful’ category. 80% of millenials found opening energy bills anxiety-inducing, while less than a third of those aged 61+ found it comparably stressful.
However, the group least likely to keep an eye on gas and electricity prices was the over-sixties.
People living in London were shown to be the most likely to check and compare gas and electric prices regularly.
The relationship between UK consumers and their energy suppliers, especially the Big Six, according to the report, appears ‘far from perfect’. However, 80% of respondents also could not imagine going electricity-free for more than a week ‘without getting bored’.
The report calls for better communication from energy companies to tone down the stress that bills, energy and all its jargon can cause.