ENERGY has become the most distrusted of all the consumer industry sectors, ahead of banks and car salesmen, according to new research by consumer group Which?
The latest findings from the group’s Consumer Insight Tracker found that 59 per cent of those surveyed did not trust energy companies, compared with banking at 33 per cent, car salesmen at 55 per cent and train companies at 27 per cent.
Four of the “Big Six” companies have announced price rises averaging more than 9 per cent in recent weeks, and executives from the firms came under fire after an appearance before MPs last week in which they blamed the rises on wholesale prices, so-called “green levies” and transport costs.
The Which? findings also showed consumer trust in the energy industry is at its lowest level since the Tracker was launched in July 2012.
Energy is now top of the list of consumer worries and for the first time more than half (51 per cent) say they are very worried about energy prices. Overall 84 per cent of consumers are worried about energy prices, the highest since October last year.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The number of people worrying about energy prices has rocketed, while trust in the companies has plummeted.
“What we have heard from the government so far is too little, and too late, for the millions of hard-pressed consumers worrying how they will pay for their energy bills this winter. Consumers need to see radical changes now.
“George Osborne should use his Autumn Statement to cut the Big Six down to size by separating the wholesale energy market from domestic supply, and by cutting the cost of government energy policies to consumers.”
Trisha McAuley, director of Scotland for Consumer Futures said the results were unsurprising.
“More than a million households in Scotland live in fuel poverty,” she said.
“This is unacceptable and we need much fairer and more transparent energy market. Importantly, people need support to make their homes cheaper to run, which is why we want to see money collected from carbon taxes to be ploughed back into energy-efficiency schemes that will do just that.”
A letter sent yesterday by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing suggested Scotland could see blackouts and rising energy prices as a result of the UK government’s energy policies.
The coalition’s energy market reform plans represent “a huge risk to security of supply”, Ewing said in a letter to UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
He added: “We have examined the UK government’s proposals carefully, discussing them in detail with the industry and other stake-holders.
“I believe beyond doubt that the current proposals risk failing Scotland and the UK in a number of vital areas, and present a huge risk to UK security of supply as well as to investor confidence and our low-carbon ambitions.”
He said the Scottish Government would not support an outcome which sacrifices renewable ambitions in favour of “discredited, expensive and imported” nuclear technology.
Last week Davey announced plans for a new criminal offence of manipulating gas and electricity prices as he delivered the government’s annual energy statement.
At present, manipulating prices is only a civil offence, with no existing criminal offence specifying price-rigging in the energy market.