We continue to review the design, layout and information we provide on our customers bills, to make it easier for customers to understand how much energy they use. We worked with the Plain English Society on our current design to create a straightforward bill that clearly shows customers how we work it out and how much they are paying. In 2011, we made changes to the contact information we provide on our customer bills, to provide clarity on the roles of third party organisations such as Consumer Direct and who to contact in different situations.
We send customers an annual statement to give them a better understanding of their energy use. The statement provides customers with a view of their annual consumption, how much they have paid for their energy, as well as predicted future use.
We recognise that there is a balance between the need to simplify energy bills and the regulatory requirements of providing customers with sufficient information about their consumption and how the bill is calculated. In 2011, we began work to evaluate our customer bills and are developing plans to further simplify how we communicate energy costs to our customers.
One of the most important things for our customers is that they only pay for the energy that they actually use.
Like all energy suppliers, we take regular meter readings from customers, but we sometimes have to estimate their energy use in between meter reads, to help us calculate customer bills.
We continue to encourage customers to submit their own meter readings, to ensure their bills are based on actual consumption. Our online customer service portal, ‘My npower’, enables customers to sign up for paperless billing and our free meter read reminder service notifies customers of the right time to send in a meter reading to calculate their bill.
Customers managing their account online are also able to use Energy Tracker – this is a free online tool that lets customers record their energy use over time, so they can stay in control and monitor their consumption. Updates to ‘My npower’ will continue in 2012 as we expand our account management services for customers.
By 2020, every household in the UK will have a smart meter for their gas and electricity supply. Smart meters will automatically provide customers with accurate information on the amount of electricity and gas that they are using via a display unit, or even the Internet or mobile phone. Customers will be able to monitor their energy use in near-real time and make informed decisions about how to manage it.
Smart meters will enable suppliers to send accurate bills to their customers, in most instances ending estimated bills. Energy suppliers won’t have to visit each household to take a meter reading but instead, a central communications provider will send through the meter readings directly, so customers will receive bills based on what they’ve actually used. Smart meters will also display meaningful data at a glance, providing a potentially powerful tool to help change the way households use and think about energy. npower is already trialling smart meters across the UK and we continue to work with the Government to develop the industry processes required to make smart meters a success.