Irish consumers are being bamboozled by over-complicated bills, with many feeling they have no choice but to rely on suppliers getting their bills right, according to new research from independent price comparison website Switcher.ie. The research shows that half of people have difficulty checking their electricity (49%) or broadband (50%) bills for accuracy, while 56% of people find it hard to check their gas bills. As a result, a staggering 50% of Irish consumers simply trust suppliers to get their bills right.
One in four (24%) cannot find the information they need on their bills. Three in ten (29%) say that bills are too complicated, while a similar amount complain of too much jargon (30%). However, consumers cannot afford to be put off checking their bills as the findings also suggest that over a quarter (26%) were overcharged on at least one household bill last year.
More worryingly, this could be the tip of an iceberg as over a third of people (35%) admit to being unable to work out if there has been a mistake on their bills, and only half of people (52%) say they are likely to spot an error. For those that claimed to have been overcharged last year, the average amount was €54 for electricity, €36 for broadband and €30 for mobile phone.
Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of independent price comparison website Switcher.ie, said: “Overcomplicated bills are a huge barrier in preventing consumers from engaging in the utility market. A large percentage of people say their bills are difficult to check for accuracy, and this puts them in the vulnerable position of having to trust their suppliers to get it right. As our research shows, this doesn’t always happen, and people can end up out of pocket as a result.
“Direct debit is now the most common method of payment, with 60% of people using this method most often to pay their utility bills. Direct debit is a convenient way to pay and can often attract discounts on bills. However, with payments being taken from your account automatically it makes it even more important that consumers are able to check and understand their bills. If you don’t check your bills regularly, you could miss important information like whether the bill is based on an estimated meter reading, if the account is in credit, whether an introductory discount has ended or a cheaper tariff is available.
“Our advice to consumers is to check all household bills thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask a supplier if you find something you don’t understand. By getting a handle on the information in your bills, you will be in a stronger position to take control of your usage and spend across all of the household essentials. This will help to ensure not only that your bills are correct, but that you are getting value for money too.”