Angela Knight represents Britain’s 80-plus much-criticised energy companies and has some clear advice for her members: ‘Be upfront, be open with customers, explain what you’ve done, admit if you have made a mistake and put it right as soon as you can.’
In the eyes of the public and politicians this advice could keep Knight’s members in Energy UK very busy indeed, because most of them think the energy giants have done plenty wrong and have a lot to put right.
Recent price hikes have seen energy bills soaring, but on top of this the suppliers are among the companies accused of avoiding tax in this country despite making massive profits.
It is the bills, of course, that most affect the public’s perception of the energy industry and in particular the Big Six that dominate the retail supply market – Centrica-owned British Gas, RWE npower, Eon, ScottishPower, SSE, and EDF.
The average household energy bill is now a staggering £1,352 a year, up more than 50 per cent from just two years ago. But Knight reckons energy companies’ profits are not excessive when you take out the cost of distributing energy to homes as well as VAT. ‘Your bill is composed of a lot of things all of which have been rising,’ she says.
‘Of course, the main energy firms are big and it is not the greatest time to be a large company, but large companies are necessary for investment and we have to get that message across.’
Also definitely rising are profit margins for the Big Six, which have more than doubled to seven per cent compared with 3.3 per cent in 2011.
But critics say they do not pay any significant amount of corporation tax, as was revealed before incredulous MPs a fortnight ago.