As Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) becomes the third major UK utility to announce price rises, a survey by IBM indicates that energy companies need to win back customer trust.
As of September 14, SSE customers will be subject to average prices rises of 18% on gas and 11% on electricity, taking average dual fuel bills to around £1265 up from £1904, according to consumer group Which?.
“This is the third price hike from one of the Big Six in less than two months,” comments Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. “The increase will put SSE's average bills at their highest ever level, and it’s only a matter of time before the remaining of the Big Six follow suit.”
Which? wants to see the Government and suppliers help householders reduce their energy use and standardise billing tariffs to make it easier for consumers to compare prices.
SSE, which serves around 5.2 million households in the UK with electricity and 3.6 million with gas, blames the price rises on higher wholesale energy costs, increased charges for using distribution networks to get energy to customers’ homes and Government policies like the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Warm Home Discount.
The utility says the prices rises will increase the number of those living in fuel poverty but says it is “very sorry” and will help customers struggling to pay their energy bills, through energy efficiency measures and discounts on bills. SSE says it will also re-introduce its no disconnection policy covering all customers.
But according to a survey of over 2000 British residents published today by software giant IBM, utilities need to take action on customer service to win back trust and loyalty among customers.
The UK Energy Survey conducted by ComRes indicates that only 38% of respondents trust energy companies to make the right decision to avoid future power cuts and rate their customer service lower than banks.
UK consumers are also waking up to low-carbon issues, with 77% saying that use of renewables would be an important factor in switching suppliers and a further 79% saying it is individual customers’ responsibility to monitor their energy use and avoid wastage.
“Now is the time for energy suppliers to learn the lessons from other industries,” says Jon Bentley of IBM Global Business Services. “The imperatives sound simple: really understand your customers, ensure you meet their needs and do so in a way that they value. But doing this well requires innovation, real customer focus and the right use of technology.”
For further information:
UK Government must change course on fuel poverty, say NGOs (20-Jul)
Fuel poverty hits 5.5 million UK households as prices rise (15-Jul)
UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne condemns British Gas price rise (8-Jul)
Nearly half of British homes have inadequate insulation (17-Jun)
21 July 2011