Lower prices, clear communication and “green” credentials are among the key issues impacting consumer trust in UK energy providers, according to new research.

The survey from Read Group, a data communications company, looked at why bill payers trust energy providers and found financial considerations are a major factor. Just two in five (41 per cent) of people trust their provider is giving them the best deal, while 58 per cent would switch providers if a different brand had a cheaper offering.

But despite recent price hikes, British Gas was crowned the most popular, with nearly a quarter of people (23 per cent) trusting the company.

The other “big six” also topped the list of the most trusted suppliers: Eon (14 per cent), EDF Energy (13 per cent), Scottish Power (11 per cent), Npower (9 per cent) and SSE (9 per cent). However, the second most trusted provider (16 per cent) was categorised as “Other”, a combination of 59 other suppliers who are challenging the traditional market leaders.

The research indicates consumers are increasingly eco-conscious, with providers demonstrating green credentials listed as among the top four reasons why UK bill payers would switch to a new provider. More than half of consumers (54 per cent) also said they want to receive more information from their provider about energy usage and advice on how to conserve energy.

Speaking to Utility Week, Read Group CEO Jon Cano-Lopez said clear and transparent communication with consumers has never been more important for suppliers in today’s increasingly competitive energy market, particularly in light of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“Consumers can now switch energy supplier more easily than a flick of a switch – as a result, there has been a shift in power from supplier to customer. Energy suppliers must work harder than ever to retain custom and can support this through sharing information on the best tariff deals and by providing rapid responses to consumer enquiries. The key to this is ensuring timely, relevant and permissioned communications with consumers,” said Cano-Lopez.

“Under the terms of GDPR, individuals have the right to be informed about how their data is being used, the right to object and the right to be forgotten. From now on, the data-sharing relationship between energy suppliers and customers will revolve far more around creating trust-based relationships.

“In compliance with GDPR, energy providers should undertake a thorough audit of databases to ensure that all customer data is stored in the appropriate way and is being kept up-to-date. In terms of communicating with customers, suppliers should be mindful of the dangers of inbox-bombing which could encourage customers to opt out of communications, and indeed change energy supplier altogether.”

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