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The Daily Mail inadvertently promotes green energy, sort of

  • 11 Jan 2012, 16:00
  • Ros Donald

What do you do when your anti-green energy agenda conflicts with news that green energy customers are much more satisfied than customers of the 'Big six' energy firms? You do some 'tightly focused' reporting, of course.

Today's Daily Mail's front page, headlined 'The great energy bills protest', splashed with the news that customer complaints about the 'big six' hit four million last year.

One obvious conclusion from the survey, conducted by consumer group Which?, is that green energy companies are topping the league table in terms of consumer satisfaction, making conventional energy providers look distinctly ordinary. But perhaps unsurprisingly, given their crusade against all things green energy, the Mail manages to avoid drawing attention to this in its article.

The survey of 8,000 energy consumers shows that small green energy companies top the customer satisfaction league table, with three of the top four ratings going to companies with a commitment to expanding the use of renewable energy sources such as the dreaded wind turbine.

Supplier

Consumer approval

Good Energy

84%

Utility Warehouse

78%

Ecotricity

77%

Ovo Energy

76%

Ebico

73%

Marks & Spencer Energy

57%

Sainsbury's Energy

54%

SSE

51%

British Gas

47%

E.ON

47%

First Utility

46%

Scottish Power

44%

EDF Energy

43%

npower

41

Source: Which?

Good Energy, which gets 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables, scores highest: 84 per cent of its customers say they're satisfied with the company's performance and would recommend it to others. In comparison, the UK's 'big six' energy providers perform pretty dismally. Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has the highest score of that group, with a 51 per cent approval rating, while RWE's npower received the worst reviews, scoring 41 per cent.

The scores appear to indicate that cheap bills aren't the only thing that attract consumers to energy companies. As Which? points out:

"Although Good Energy tops our table, it won't give you the cheapest bills - it's about 25% more than the cheapest tariff on the market, but that's only 7% more than British Gas's standard tariff. One customer said: 'not the cheapest, but I wouldn't expect it to be given their investment in renewables'."

The score is calculated based on four criteria - customer service, value for money, bill accuracy and clarity and the supplier's efforts to help customers to save energy.

Bill accuracy emerges as a major issue for energy consumers - of the four million customer complaints about big six failures last year, the majority concerned charging errors and inaccurate meter readings by the UK's biggest energy companies. These mean that customers paying too little are then hit with a large bill at the end of the year, or that they are routinely overcharged on monthly direct debits.

It's likely that customer satisfaction may be boosted for small energy companies who don't have to deal with the same volume of bills. It's also likely that consumers who choose to buy from the green suppliers may be doing so because they have a particular interest in renewable energy. The challenge for the small green suppliers will be to maintain this performance if they begin to attract customers outside the bearded, sandal wearing, Fairtrade coffee-drinking contingent.

But the scores show their customers are satisfied with them for reasons other than their green credentials - they are also winning because their bills are predictable and they help consumers to save money by using energy more efficiently, according to Which?. Both of these factors help consumers save money and bode well for green energy companies' market competitiveness. But don't tell the Mail we told you.

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