A vast majority of consumers (76%) are confused by their energy bills, with some saying they feel anxious when they look at them.
One 44-year-old bill-payer from London told consumer group Which?: “The energy bills … just generally they are a nightmare. Like the kilowatts per hour, whatever they’re measuring, it’s just like, ‘Wow, oh my God, where do they come up with all this stuff?’ So yes, I find it a nightmare.”
Clearer communication from suppliers could help to reduce bill anxiety, the consumer body said, after a poll found that 48% of consumers have a negative emotional response when reading them, 47% find it stressful and 49% felt anxious over the longer term.
Which? said it was important that customers understood what they were being asked to pay and why so they could balance their budgets and feel confident their bills were accurate.
Almost three-quarters of consumers (74%) who found their bills unclear said they did not trust their supplier, compared with three in 10 (30%) who found their bills clear.
Which? director of policy and advocacy Rocio Concha said: “Our research has found that how energy firms communicate with their customers really matters – and can completely change how people feel about both their bill and their provider.
“Changes such as using simple language and clearly explaining why direct debits are changing could help to reduce consumer’s stress and anxiety when reading their bills, improve trust in energy companies and reduce customer queries.
“Which? is calling on energy providers to take this opportunity to make their bills as clear and simple as possible.”
To test the clarity of bills, the consumer body gave more than 2,000 bill-payers a “control” correspondence about an increase to their direct debit, based on emails and letters currently being sent out by energy firms, or an improved “test” correspondence written by Which? to see which performed best.
Almost two-thirds (65%) of those who received the Which? letter understood why their direct debit needed to change, compared with 48% of those who saw existing letters.
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