Here's a roundup of this week's top broadband and energy news:
Small Suppliers Outperform the Big Six in Customer Satisfaction Survey
Octopus Energy topped Which?’s annual customer satisfaction table, with an 80% score, more than 20 points higher than the best performing Big Six supplier, SSE.
Octopus, which served 400,000 households, was joined in the top five by other small suppliers, Robin Hood Energy, So Energy, Ebico, and Tonik Energy. In general, a third of consumers signed up with small and medium suppliers were “very satisfied” with their provider’s customer service, compared to just 18% of households with the Big Six. Among the Big Six, Scottish Power and Npower performed worst, coming in at a shared 27th place out of 30 suppliers.
However, the acclaim for competitor energy companies wasn’t universal. The poorest ranked firm, Solarplicity, a small renewable supplier, earned the only one-star ratings from Which, for its billing, customer service both online and over the phone, its complaints handling, and its assistance of customers to understand and reduce their energy use. Meanwhile, nine small suppliers have folded since the beginning of 2018, several following citations from market regulator Ofgem for poor customer service. Spark Energy, ranked in the penultimate position in Which?’s poll, has already collapsed, with its 290,000 customers transferred to Ovo Energy.
Which? polled nearly 8,000 consumers about the performance of 30 energy suppliers in England, Scotland, and Wales, covering 90% of the market, and seven in Northern Ireland.
Citizens Advice Launched Big Energy Saving Week
Citizens Advice has hosted a weeklong national campaign, running 21-27 January, to help households cut their utility bill and understand the energy market.
The Big Energy Saving Week, run for the eight consecutive year, partners the consumer champion with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and local authorities and charities to host events across the country, ranging from cafes where consumers can get advice about switching from energy market experts to local media outreach.
It’s encouraging households to “check, switch, and save”: to check their current energy tariff and use, to switch for savings of up to hundreds of pounds a year, and to save, by increasing the energy efficiency of their home and taking advantage of all the benefits for which they are eligible. It’s specifically designed to help the 11% of English households which experience fuel poverty and the half of all household which are stuck on poor value default tariffs because they haven’t recently switched supplier.
Last year, the Big Energy Saving Week reached thousands of people, helping them save approximately 1 million pounds on their energy bills. Nine out of 10 people who participated in BESW events said they felt more confident about how to conserve energy and save money on their bills in the future.
“This week is a great opportunity for people to make sure they’re getting the best deal. There’s also additional support to help people take some pressure off their bills,” said Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
Aldi UK & Ireland Achieves Carbon Neutrality
Aldi UK & Ireland has announced its 900 stores and 11 distribution centres are now completely carbon neutral, following a programme of both cutting and offsetting emissions.
Aldi currently uses 100% green electricity, has implemented an ISO50001 certified energy management system, installed solar panels on stores and distribution centres, and invested £20 million in an environmentally-friendly refrigeration system. It will now also offset the equivalent of 160,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year by reducing carbon at home and supporting carbon offsetting programmes globally.
“We are proud to now be a carbon neutral business in the UK and Ireland,” said Fritz Walleczek, Manging Director of Corporate Responsibility at Aldi. “However, this is only the start of our journey as we will continually review out operations and look to reduce emissions wherever possible for many years to come.”
Last summer research firm Engaged Tracking found that Aldi was among the most polluting supermarket chains in the UK, lagging far behind the best performing grocer, Sainsbury’s, on carbon emissions intensity. Aldi disputed the research and said at the time it had cut its greenhouse gas emissions per square meter of sales floor by 53% since 2012 and was on track to achieve carbon neutrality in 2019.
Employees Could Claim Home Broadband as Work Expense
MoneySuperMarket has found that Britons spend an average of eight hours and 35 minutes using their home internet for work purposes each week, more than a third (38%) of their total usage. With the average monthly broadband totalling £31.08, that means employees are spending £11.94 of their own money on internet for work each month—and could claim it back from their employers.
But although nearly half (47%) of bosses believe employees should be able to claim the full cost of their home internet connection, only a quarter of employees are actually claiming back those expenses. If they did, just 17% of UK workers said they’d ask for the full cost of their broadband bill, which 37% said they would expense only the portion of their internet bill they could demonstrate they’d used for work.
“Working from home is a benefit that many UK workers enjoy, but it’s interesting to consider the tools, like broadband, that they need to do so – and the potential associated costs,” said Emma Spencer from MoneySuperMarket.
Which? Identifies 391 Areas for Fastest and Slowest Broadband
Which? has used results from its broadband speed test to identify locations in the UK with the fastest download speeds and those with the slowest.
The areas with the fastest internet speed were Broxbourne (32.5Mbps), Crawley (32.3Mbps) and Newark & Sherwood (30Mbps), while residents of the Scottish Islands and Lake District struggled with the slowest speeds: Orkney Islands with average speeds of 3Mbps, Allerdale with 5.7Mbps and and the Shetland Islands with 6.7Mbps. They were among 10 local authorities identified by Which where residents were failing to obtain speeds of at least 10Mbps, the starting point for the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO), to be introduced later this year.
Which also noted that average speeds are restricted by households not taking up the fastest service available in their area. Ofcom found that take-up of superfast broadband services, with average speeds exceeding 30Mbps, is still just 45%, up from 38% in 2017 and 31% in 2016.
Which? drew the results from 277,575 consumer speed tests run on its speed checker from the beginning of 2018 to 30 September.
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