Do we understand our bills? What stops us from switching? Can we tell what we're paying for electricity and gas? The CER shines a spotlight on the energy market and what energy customers really think. And we've picked some of the highlights.
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Do you open your electricity bill? No? Well, you’re not alone! Less than a third of electricity customers open their bills, and only a quarter of customers whip out the letter opener when the gas bills come in.
Sounds rather shocking doesn’t it? Especially when you consider how much money we spend on gas and electricity in Ireland. But it’s not all that surprising… because we seem to have some trouble understanding our bills. For example, more than half of us can’t tell if we’re paying an estimated bill, or if we’re paying for what we’ve actually used (although we at bonkers.ie don't necessarily think that's the customers' fault).
Having said that though, energy customers sure as heck understand the bottom line. And for those of us that actually open our bills, 91% of us go straight to the amount of the bill, and then 83% of us check when we’re going to have to pay it.
So it’s all about the money really isn’t it?
Well, certainly it’s money that motivates us to switch suppliers. Or, rather, it’s a desire to save money that motivates us. In the CER’s Energy Consumer Survey, the numero uno reason for switching in 2016 was to save money, with 87% of electricity and 85% of gas customers saying “I want to save money on my bill!”
But only 40% of customers said they were aware of stuff like price discounts! So for the other 60%: those discounts are what’ll help you save all that lovely lolly when you switch. The discounts are actually the biggest they’ve ever been right now, which means you’ll save lots.
Ok, so why don’t people switch then?
That’s the question that keeps us up at night here at bonkers.ie. And we know it has suppliers scratching their heads too. But the fact is that lots of people don’t switch despite the savings available. The CER Survey people asked that question too and here’s some of what they found:
More than half of electricity customers say that they prefer to remain with a supplier they trust. And two thirds of gas customers and half of electricity customers said they liked the service that they received from their current suppliers. This I’m sure will keep the retention teams and the energy suppliers very happy.
But here’s the one that really got me… around a third of gas and electricity customers said either the savings were not sufficient to justify switching, or that they didn’t believe that the prices will be as low as the alternative supplier claims.
But maybe if we asked some of those questions differently, we’d get different answers…
So how about if we said you could save over €200 in the next 12 months by switching your electricity supplier, would you do it?
That’s a real figure and we’ll stand over it at bonkers.ie. That’s what you could actually save by switching from the most common electricity deal to the cheapest one. And you wouldn’t even have to reduce your usage.
And how about if we said you could save nearly €350 in the next 12 months by switching from the most expensive electricity deal to the cheapest one? Would you go for that one? That’s a real saving, and we’ll happily stand over that one too.
So what else did we learn from the CER’s Energy Consumer Survey?
Well, its full name would challenge a Spanish royal for sheer length. Its proper title is “Findings from 2016 research on attitudes and experiences in the domestic and SME electricity and gas markets in Ireland”.
Golly. But we lap this stuff up here at bonkers.ie and it’s absolutely jam packed with interesting stats on how Irish customers view their energy service.
Irish people find it difficult to understand supplier price plans.
Few consumers choose to make comparisons despite the (huge) savings potential.
Most people who do switch end up being automatically placed on expensive standard rates once their discounts have expired.
Awareness of special offers is very low among Irish consumers.
Only 12% of electricity customers can provide an accurate estimate of their unit cost of electricity (remember what we were saying about understanding bills?).
And just 5% of gas customers can make an accurate estimate of the cost they’re paying for a unit of gas.
Over one third of gas and electricity customers are unaware of the offers available to them in the market.
40% of Irish people are aware that some offers exist, but many don’t understand them, or how they work.
43% of electricity customers and half of all gas customers would like to be made aware of the duration of their price changes in order to help them to make an informed decision about when to switch.
37% of electricity customers and 42% of gas customers would like to see a full year one estimate of their cost on all marketing and advertising material. Just so you know though – you can check to see what all offers will cost on bonkers.ie
Of those surveyed, 12% switched electricity in the last year, 16% switched gas. This is consistent with the official switching figures which are 13.5% for electricity and 16% for gas.
Most people who switch for lower prices don’t switch again when their initial discounts expire (you’re losing money here folks!)
Around half of Irish consumers would like to get a contract expiration reminder (49% electricity, 53% gas) to help them identify savings and avoid being automatically put onto standard rates.
We could go on... but that's a lotta stats for one read.