You may have seen this week that energy regulator Ofgem has called for a major investigation into the Big Six suppliers, referring them to the Competition and Markets Authority. The aim of the investigation is to ensure the market is simpler, clearer and fairer for consumers, but also to restore the trust in them that appears to be lacking. Apparently 43 per cent of customers surveyed last year did not trust the Big Six to be open and transparent in their dealings with them, a rise from 39% the year before. This is, as Ofgem says, “an extremely high figure for an industry providing such an essential service”.
Ofgem has also questioned the profits of these companies, which have increased from an average of £233m in 2009 to £1.1bn in 2012.
Now I know I may be putting two and two together to make five, but could one of the reasons for these profits be the drive to digital? We know that companies cite moving customers online as a win for the consumer as their accounts are easily accessed, and as a win for the environment (which we challenge) – it’s obviously cheaper for companies to move customers online.
Ofgem says the profits have risen with “no clear evidence of suppliers reducing their own costs or becoming better at meeting customer expectations”. Let’s hope the investigation may look at meeting those expectations – that customers expect to be communicated with in a manner of their choosing rather than being forced into a digital world they can’t, or may not want to access. Maybe giving the consumer the choice of correspondence will help win back some of that much-needed trust.