Reputation Survey: Utilities - Public slams the energy suppliers

During a week in which British Gas announced record profits on the back of soaring winter fuel bills and EDF raised its prices, consumers' trust in energy firms is virtually non-existent.

As EDF became the last of the 'big six' energy companies to raise prices for customers this week, overall consumer trust in energy providers is extremely low, new figures show.

Of the 2,000 members of the public in PRWeek/OnePoll's survey, 90 per cent said they did not trust energy providers to pass on any savings they made to customers in the form of price cuts, because they preferred higher profits.

Only nine per cent believed energy providers did all they could to keep prices low, with 62 per cent saying they did not. Indeed, 29 per cent believed suppliers did everything they could to keep prices high.

A further 70 per cent said they did not trust the energy industry to lead on finding alter-natives to fossil fuels and more sustainable forms of energy.

And 65 per cent of respondents thought energy regulator Ofgem was not strict enough on the companies, while 73 per cent thought the Government was not strict enough.

Of the 'big six', British Gas was the energy provider of which the public had the highest opinion. Twenty-nine per cent opted for British Gas, compared with 23 per cent for E.On and 16 per cent for EDF.

British Gas came out as the supplier which respondents said provided the best customer service, at 31 per cent, while 20 per cent said E.On and 15 per cent selected Scottish Power.

E.On came out top for having reasonable prices (24 per cent) and for acting in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way (25 per cent).

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

HOW I SEE IT

Debbie Zaman, Founder and head of ideas, With PR

Trust - or lack of it - was a key issue here. A staggering 90 per cent of respondents did not trust energy providers to pass on savings and 29 per cent of respondents felt they did everything they could to keep prices high.

A compelling 70 per cent did not trust the energy industry to find more sustainable forms of energy.

E.On, British Gas and EDF fared reasonably well as providers which operated in the most ethical and environmentally friendly manner, doubtless helped by 'Green Streets' and 'Save Today Save Tomorrow' initiatives last year. However, it would have been interesting to see that question answered had there been a 'none of the above' option.

We often hear energy industry heads explaining their pricing policies on shows such as the Today programme. Perhaps one way of creating trust would be to translate these interviews about the fluctuating prices of raw resources into a creative and engaging format for a mass-market audience.

MOTIVATED BY PROFITS

90% of respondents said they did not trust energy providers to pass on any savings they made to customers as price cuts

OFGEM LACKS MUSCLE

65% said Ofgem, the energy regulator, was not strict enough with energy providers

LIKELY TO SWITCH

63% said they would consider changing their energy supplier in the next 12 months


WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ENERGY PROVIDERS ...
OFFERS THE MOST REASONABLE PRICES?
%
British Gas 23.25
E.On 24
EDF 17
ScottishPower 15
Scottish & Southern 7.5
Npower 13.25

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ENERGY PROVIDERS ...
OPERATES IN THE MOST ETHICAL MANNER?
%
British Gas 25
E.On 25
EDF 21
ScottishPower 12
Scottish & Southern 7
Npower 10

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ENERGY PROVIDERS ...
OFFERS THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE?
%
British Gas 31
E.On 20
EDF 14
ScottishPower 15
Scottish & Southern 8
Npower 12

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ENERGY PROVIDERS ...
DO YOU HAVE THE HIGHEST OPINION OF OVERALL?
%
British Gas 29
E.On 23
EDF 16
ScottishPower 13
Scottish & Southern 8
Npower 11

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