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Simple approach from Co-operative Energy scores highly with consumers in Which? survey

Posted on 22 September 2011

Co-operative Energy has received favourable feedback in a new survey on energy tariff complexity by consumer champion Which? Co-operative Energy which launched in May 2011 was one of five energy suppliers to be featured in the survey. The five suppliers featured were British Gas, SSE and Eon (the three largest of the Big 6) plus Co-operative Energy and Ebico. The Which? survey was based on a random sample of 36 consumers, including a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant, who were asked to work out their domestic energy bill under supervision using just a calculator and the suppliers’ websites. Consumers were not allowed to use a switching site (Which? estimates that 84% of people don’t use a comparison site to switch). Results revealed that the pass rate was higher with simpler tariffs (Co-operative Energy and Ebico) with 10 out of 28 participants passing unaided. The complexity of the tariffs of the Big 6 proved to be a major stumbling block with just one of the 36 – a company director, able to work out what they would pay on a standard tariff using just the companies’ own websites. The survey results are revealed in the same week that energy secretary Chris Huhne announced a proposed crackdown on the ‘predatory pricing’ policies operated by the major suppliers. The findings also coincide with the launch of an Affordable Energy Campaign by Which? to help people spend as little as possible on energy, starting by calling on Ofgem to introduce one simple format for all tariffs as part of its ongoing review of the retail market, which is looking at removing tariff complexity. This would allow people to compare different tariffs and check they are on the cheapest deal. Nigel Mason, Business Development Manager of Co-operative Energy said: “This survey shows that some energy tariffs are so complicated that even an accountant could not calculate how much they should pay. What chance does a regular household bill payer stand? “Co-operative Energy came out very well from the survey. The panellists liked not only the simplicity of our tariff but also the fact that we have just one product, described as ‘our most appreciated aspect.’ It made the buying decision very easy, whereas the multiple tariffs from other suppliers created anxiety and uncertainty. “We acknowledge we have room for improvement if we want to score top marks. That’s why we’re making our rate table more prominent on our website and providing a tool to help people to find which electricity region they live in.” Which? is also asking consumers to email Ofgem’s chief executive to ask him to tackle tariffs Earlier this year, Co-operative Energy scooped the Consumer Action Award at the Which? Awards 2011. The new energy provider picked up the award following its pledge to offer transparency on profits, clear bills and a single tariff for new and loyal customers. The award, which also recognised Co-operative Energy for encouraging UK growth in a sector that is dominated by a handful of companies, was presented by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Rt Hon Vince Cable MP.

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