Utility statements top the list of Britain's most baffling bills
Electricity bills top the list of the most baffling bills with 36 per cent of people saying that they found them difficult to understand, closely followed by gas bills (33 per cent) and water bills (16 per cent).
The new research, commissioned by Gocompare.com, also revealed that a fifth of people won't read a bill if it is confusing, while over half (59 per cent) of people believe that companies deliberately keep bills confusing.
While household utility bills top the list of the documents people find hardest to understand, mobile phone, bank and credit card statements were the easiest to read. The main reasons people had trouble in understanding their bills include:
complicated calculations (68 per cent)
not understanding the terminology used (38 per cent)
too much information (29 per cent)
language used is confusing or not plain English (25 per cent)
they include too many abbreviations (14 per cent)
Gocompare.com's survey asked people which terms commonly used on bills they fully understood:
1. Calorific value (28 per cent)
2. Economy 7 (34 per cent)
3. Inclusive allowance (36 per cent)
=4. Units, dual fuel (53 per cent)
6. VATable charges (57 per cent)
7. Net (58 per cent)
8. Tariff (61 per cent)
9. Gross (62 per cent)
10. Standing charge (66 per cent)
11. Balance brought forward (79 per cent)
12. Debit (83 per cent)
13. Credit (84 per cent)
Jeremy Cryer, Gocompare.com's head of energy, commented: "Together, electricity and gas bills represent one of our biggest household expenses, but our survey suggests few people really understand what they are being charged for. Energy price calculations are complicated but there is no reason why companies can't explain their charges to customers using plain English. Simpler bills would make it easier for people to understand their energy usage and charges.
"Worryingly, our survey suggests that a fifth of people tend not to read their bills if they find them confusing. We all need to manage our outgoings proactively, and these people could be overpaying bills if they are based on estimated energy usage rather than an actual meter reading. Also, many people pay their energy bills by direct debit and it's not unusual to overpay during the summer months when usage tends to be lower. These overpayments can offset higher winter bills, but often the level of direct debit payment suggested by energy suppliers can be on the generous side and many people may pay far more than they need to. Overpayments will be shown on bills as credits and customers are entitled to ask for their money back."
To help people decipher their energy bills, Gocompare.com has produced a guide which explains common terms used on bills and as well providing tips to save money on your gas and electricity: gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide.