Do Britons understand how their energy bills are calculated?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 03, 2021, 3:25 PM UTC

Only half of people who pay their household’s energy bills know what the energy price cap is

Rishi Sunak has announced a £500m fund to help families struggling this winter, as a surge in gas prices drives up household energy bills. The price rises have spurred many to shop for a better deal on their bills if there is one to be had at all, but how well do Britons actually understand their energy bills?

A fifth of Britons don’t understand how energy bills are calculated

Between gas and electric, tariffs and meter types, energy bills can be confusing. So confusing that only one-quarter of Britons (26%) say they “completely understand” how they are calculated, although 47% say they have some understanding. A fifth (21%), however, say they do not understand how the bills are calculated at all.

Even among those who are jointly or solely responsible for their household bills, only three in ten say they fully understand how the payments are determined. However, among Britons who are responsible for their bills and regularly shop around for deals on their energy, 45% say they fully understand how the bills are calculated.

Around half of those with responsibility for their household gas and or electric bills (51%) say they have some understanding of how the bills are calculated. One in six (16%) Britons with responsibility for both the energy bills have no idea how they are determined at all.

Confusion over bills is highest among those aged 18-24, with only 51% claiming some knowledge of how their household bills are calculated – including only 9% saying they completely understand them, However, this group is also much less likely to be responsible for these bills compared to other age groups (34%, versus 89% of those 55 and over).

Are Britons missing out on deals on their energy?

This lack of understanding may ultimately be costing Britons money. While a third (33%) of the general public regularly shops around for deals on their energy this rises to nearly half among those who say they completely understand how their household bills are calculated (47%). However, of those who don’t understand their bills, less than one in five (18%) regularly look for the best value deals.

A third of Britons who say they don’t understand how their household bills are worked out have never shopped around for a better deal (35%) compared to only 13% of those who claim a good understanding.

What does the energy price cap mean?

One term used frequently in news reports about the rising cost of utilities is the “energy price cap” and with a significant proportion of Brits unsure how their bills work, do they know what this term means?

Around half (51%) of people correctly identified that the energy price cap is the maximum price companies can charge consumers per unit of energy used. Some 49% of Brits didn’t know or were wrong: 23% incorrectly think the term means the total bill a household could receive, 2% think it means something else entirely, and 24% don’t know either way.

Even among those jointly or solely responsible for their household bills, only 55% among those paying electricity and or gas bills knew the correct meaning of the term.

See full results here