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Co-operative Energy urges Government to play fair if QR codes are to be introduced

Posted on 13 March 2014

Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, is welcoming the call from the Government this week which could see QR (Quick Response) codes introduced on consumer energy bills to help bill-payers get an instant cross-market comparison. However, Co-operative Energy believes the codes should only link to a not for profit, independent information site and not commission-based sales sites. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey this week announced the Government’s plans to introduce QR codes to energy bills so consumers can get an instant cross-market comparison. Ramsay Dunning, general manager of Co-operative Energy said: “If the proposal of QR codes is introduced it must be in the best interests of the consumer. This is the latest announcement from the Government to help consumers to make the switch and get a better deal, with collective switching and simpler tariffs already introduced. “The ability to do this would allow energy customers wanting to know more about their energy use and whether they are getting the best value for money to have a new and easy way of finding the best deal, but if this was directly linked to an impartial and not for profit energy comparison and information service, consumers would always be guaranteed the best deal to suit them.” Member-owned Co-operative Energy, which has over 200,000 customers, recently called for the Government to create a public serving, independent information and comparison service that is both impartial and doesn’t mislead the public. The only resource currently available for consumers to compare energy prices, beyond calling each of the energy providers individually, are the sales sites. These sites are misleading customers as they’re positioning themselves as a service when in reality they are profit maximising sales organisations.  Ramsay Dunning, group general manager of Co-operative Energy said:  “In principal the introduction of QR codes to bills is a good, positive idea and a step in the right direction for consumers but it needs to embrace impartiality and independence if it is to be a success. Our own recent research tells us that consumers are not happy with the current situation with commercial sales sites and that many feel they are not as transparent as they should be.  Establishing a properly regulated, Government-backed alternative to existing sales sites represents a further step forward in creating greater transparency across the energy sector.   “We are campaigning for an impartial, not-for-profit regulated comparison service as customers are being misled into believing they are being provided with a service showing the best prices, when in reality the commercial sales sites are only providing them with products paying fat commissions. Using technology in this way can only make this a stronger proposition for consumers who are fed up with the lack of transparency in the energy market and as we have experienced, have been switching from the Big Six to smaller suppliers more than ever before.” Incorporating QR codes on customers’ bills will encourage the development of applications that use this data and will allow smartphone users to transfer valuable data from their bill (such as current tariff name and consumption) to their smartphone or tablet computer, helping to control consumption and costs. Added Ramsay Dunning: “QR codes could also be of great benefit to vulnerable consumers or those who do not use smart phones, meaning people with smart phones will be able to help friends and family less comfortable with technology to be able to easily access accurate information to help people who need additional support. There’s no denying the convenience of commercial sales sites but hopefully we’re a step closer to linking the technology to an impartial and independent service which has consumers’ best interests at heart.”      

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