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Manchester bill payers blast energy charges as ‘unclear and unfair’

Posted on 31 August 2011

Half of householders in Manchester say they are not getting a fair deal from energy providers, according to Co-operative Energy, Britain’s newest energy supplier.

The ethical energy provider commissioned an independent survey to gain an insight into the city’s perception of gas and electricity bills.

It reveals that just under half of people (49%) who pay the electricity or gas bill think they are not being charged fairly - while a mere 1% think they are getting a reasonable deal. The remaining 50% say that ‘some’ or ‘most’ of the charges are fair.

Many of Manchester’s bill payers are also frustrated about mystifying tariffs and bills. Nearly half (49%) say they are confused by their tariff and a quarter (25%) finds the information on their bill difficult to understand.

But even in the face of this confusion, Manchester residents are not trying to unravel their bills – staggeringly, more than a third (34%) admitted they don’t listen to or look for advice on energy suppliers.

The research comes at a time of intense public anger towards the ‘big six’ energy firms following price hikes at the same time as these companies announce record profits.

One respondent in the survey, which was conducted by OpinionMatters, said: “They are just out to make as much money as possible. They make obscene profits with no thought for pensioners like me.”

Nigel Mason, Business Development Manager at Co-operative Energy, which launched in May and has so far gained more than 10,000 customers, said: “People in Manchester are justified in feeling some frustration towards energy suppliers. Independent research by the regulator Ofgem shows the ‘big six’ energy suppliers charge more in their home region than elsewhere, exploiting their big market share. When you are owned by your customers, as we are, that sort of practice is unthinkable.”

“The confusion people feel is understandable as well. There are more than 4,000 different energy tariffs in the UK, selecting the right one for your family can be an overwhelming struggle. That’s why we have just one, simple tariff.”

A recent review by energy watchdog Ofgem found that consumers struggle to identify who is offering the cheapest deal and choosing an energy provider is overwhelmingly complex because of the sheer volume of tariffs. To make it easy for customers, Co-operative Energy has one product and one tariff called Pioneer, named after the Rochdale Pioneers who founded the first UK co-operative in 1844.

In order to provide a simple and transparent approach, Co-operative Energy charges a single unit rate, whether customers use one unit of energy per month or one thousand. The unit rate differs slightly region-by-region in line with the differing distribution and transmission costs charged in each area.

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