Gas and electricity bills still a mystery for six in ten britons _ this is money

Gas and electricity bills are still a mystery for six in ten Britons as energy suppliers are voted the worst offenders for providing confusing bills, according to a new survey.

Despite reforms introduced by Ofgem two years ago requiring suppliers to make bills clearer, such as including details of their cheapest tariff, nearly half said they have seen no difference.

More than half of the 2,000 people surveyed by comparison website uSwitch also said they could not recall seeing mention of cheaper deals on their bill.

Incomprehensible: Some 60% of Britons said they still don’t understand energy bills – and younger people find it harder to decifer them than older peers

And even among those who do recall about the cheapest tariff being displayed on the bill, less than half actually made an effort to switch.

The survey comes as the long-awaited report by the Competition Market Authority last month concluded that British households were overpaying by £1.7billion on average a year for their energy.

It found that too many customers (around 70 per cent of Big Six customers) were sat on standard variable tariffs – typically the most expensive – and they could save more than £300 on average by switching. It also said that the Big Six providers have been taking existing customers for granted.

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Ann Robinson, uSwitch director of consumer policy, said confusion around bills means that customers could be missing out on better deals or risk bill shock by accumulating significant debt.

‘Given that Ofgem’s reforms – which were designed to give clearer information to customers – came in two years ago, it’s worrying that so many remain baffled and bewildered by their bills.

‘We’re urging Ofgem and suppliers to press ahead with plans to make bills easier to understand, making it simpler for consumers to use less, waste less and pay less for energy.’

Energy companies are the worst offenders for sending confusing bills, coming behind water companies, mortgage lenders, councils, phone companies and credit card lenders, according to uSwitch.

Gas and electricity bills are a headache especially for younger people, with 68 per cent of 18 to 35 year olds admitting they do not fully understand their statement.

Older people seem to have a better grasp of energy bills, although still 62 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and more than half of over 55s do not understand them.

Under Ofgem’s reforms, suppliers were also instructed to simplify confusing and complex tariffs, which were limited to four core tariffs per customer for both gas and electricity.

Annual energy statements allow for the most precise comparisons as they show your household’s total energy consumption over one year.

An Ofgem spokesman said: ‘Ofgem is committed to ensuring that consumers have the clearest information they need in their bills so they can make informed choices about their energy supply.

‘We are currently reviewing these rules and are planning to trial new formats for bills with suppliers to make them easier to understand for consumers.’

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