New research from Compare the Market has revealed very low levels of engagement with electricity and gas meters across the UK. The findings show that the majority (80%) of households – over 22 million across the country – do not submit monthly meter readings, while 1 in 10 admit to not knowing who is responsible for monitoring their monthly energy usage.
The report notes that the findings are particularly concerning as new Government figures reveal that the majority (79%) of the population do not have smart meters, which make it unnecessary to submit readings. In the absence of smart meters, most customers are encouraged to submit regular meter readings. However, submitting meter readings is no guarantee of billing precision; nearly a quarter (23%) of those who did submit meter readings found that they had been significantly overcharged.
The younger generation appears to be the age group worst affected by energy disengagement, with one third (32%) of 18-24-year-olds admitting that they are not able to name their energy provider. A similar number (30%) do not know the location of their energy meter within their home. While over half (57%) of the younger generation acknowledge that they rely entirely on their supplier to calculate their bills, they are not the only disengaged demographic. Almost two fifths (40%) of all other age groups also admit to taking a backseat when it comes to addressing their energy costs.
Despite their reliance on energy companies for billing, one fifth (22%) of customers said that they do not think their energy company treats them fairly and almost one third (30%) have never been prompted to submit a reading by their supplier.
However, the problem stretches far beyond inertia, as many households find their meter readings difficult to comprehend. Over half (57%) of UK customers are not confident that they fully understand their energy meter. This may account for the lack of action taken by consumers. The majority (76%) of customers questioned have never queried an energy bill based on consumption calculations.
Peter Earl, Head of Energy at Compare the Market, said: “It is disappointing to see that so many households are not encouraged to submit regular meter readings by their supplier. Keeping a close eye on whether your monthly bill and meter reading tally up, is one of the most effective ways for customers to ensure they are on the best tariff possible. It is particularly concerning that engagement is so low among the younger generations, who could easily be taken advantage of by firms who rely on inertia and a lack of engagement to make money.
“The energy industry does have a responsibility to its customers to make sure they are sufficiently informed on issues related to their billing and usage, even if the relentless price hikes of late indicate that consumers are better off taking matters into their own hands. Careful monitoring of both meter readings and energy bills is a useful tactic for those who feel they might need to switch to a more affordable tariff.”