Energy bills are so complicated at the moment that even an accountant could not calculate how much they should pay.
Consumer champion Which? asked 36 people including a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant, to work out their domestic energy bill using nothing but information from the supplier's website. Just one - a company director – could do it.
The group found that this complexity conceals bad deals for customers. Energy tariffs are riddled with tricks and caveats designed to cost people more money, including tiered pricing that penalises low users and discounts that don't materialise if you leave before a set period.
With many people facing energy price hikes of 10-20% this winter, it's vital that they are able to work out their bills and check they're paying the right price.
Which? is launching an Affordable Energy Campaign to help people spend as little as possible on energy, starting by calling on Ofgem to introduce one simple format for all tariffs as part of its ongoing review of the retail market, which is looking at removing tariff complexity. This would allow people to compare different tariffs at a glance and easily see which is cheapest.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: "People tell us they want to be able to check they're paying the right price for their energy, and when even an accountant struggled to calculate a bill it shows it's far too complicated.
"There are straightforward ways that consumers can cut their bills - for example by switching to online deals or paying by direct debit. But that won't help people to pick the best tariff for them. So Which? wants the regulator to stamp out excessively complex tariffs, across the board."
Tim Yeo MP, chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee welcomed the investigation in the complexity of energy tariffs. "The enormous number and unnecessary complexity of tariffs prevent consumers making easy comparisons and hinder switching. The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee will return to this issue if no action is taken," he said.