Archives for the month of: July, 2011
British Gas EY04LZM

Image by didbygraham via Flickr

by Ann Robinson

The announcement that British Gas would be fined £2.5m came as a shock to some, and not such a shock to others. British Gas had been accused of not properly following up complaints, especially when it came to its small business customers.

British Gas, however, argue that the mishandled complaints made up a small proportion of the 16m accounts it holds, and that the fine was ‘disproportionate’ to the crime.

This is not the first time we have heard of poor customer service in the energy market. It has notoriously come last in customer service polls when compared with other industries, and has been a cause of concern for Ofgem, which is currently investigating practices in the industry.

The uSwitch Customer Satisfaction Awards, which occurs annually, has of late shown some improvement in the industry, but not enough. Still, less than 6 in ten of us are satisfied with their service.

In fact, energy suppliers have consistently been voted the worst for getting bills wrong since 2007, worringly only losing out to the Inland Revenue.

Although 4 in 10 energy billing queries are resolved out within a week, but on average billing inaccuracies take just over 2 months to resolve.

This certainly leaves space for improvement, but what is more important is the manner with which they deal with customers.

If the customer is treated well and kept informed, it does wonders for a company’s reputation – so much so that even a complaint can a loyal customer make.

On the bright side, there are some very positive signs in the energy market. Less households are being billed inaccurately, less money is being owed as a result and less time is being taken to resolve mistakes. It may not be perfect, but at least we’re moving forward.

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Centrica – the company which owns British Gas – today announced that  it had made profits of £1.26 billion.

This news comes just three weeks after British Gas told customers that it would be putting up gas prices by 18% and electricity prices by 16% from 18th August.

We shot a quick video blog post with uSwitch energy expert Tom Lyon to explain more about the profit announcement.

Further reading

Question mark; originally by Neutrality, inver...

Image via Wikipedia

What is a megabit? What is the difference between a megabit and megabyte? What do they have to do with broadband? Ernest Doku explains in a few handy points…

– A megabit (written as ‘Mb,’ and not to be confused with a megabyte or ‘MB’) is a unit of data to measure network speed, usually by the second.

– This is what creates the acronym ‘Mbps’ or ‘megabits per second’.

– There are 8 megabits in 1 Megabyte (MB).

– To achieve a transfer rate of 1MB per second, a network connection with a speed of at least 8Mbps is required (with the national average being 6.8Mbps).

– The size of a 4 minute MP3 audio track is around 3MB, a 40 minute TV show is approximately 300MB, a 90 minute movie can be around 700MB and a regular Blu-ray disc can hold as much as 51,200MB!

– To ascertain the download time of an item, divide the number of MB by 8 to work out (roughly) how long it will take in Mbps.

Independent communications regulator Ofcom has sung the praises of the UK’s broadband providers today, noting that the average speed of broadband has increased by 10% from 6.2Mbps (Megabits per second) at the close of last year, to 6.8Mbps in May 2011.

In addition, almost half (47%) of the country’s residential broadband users are actually on packages with advertised speeds of 10Mbps, compared to 42% last year and a paltry 9% in April of 2009.

Whilst this is great news, as is the availability of ‘superfast’ broadband (access to either Virgin Media’s or BT’s fibre-optic services) to most homes within the UK and its closeness between purported and received speeds.

However, an enduring issue lies in the disparity between ‘up to’ speeds that some providers are still using to advertise broadband and the speeds that consumers receive is actually getting wider.

The average advertised speed in May of this year was 15Mbps, a whopping 8.2Mbps faster than the average actual speed of 6.8Mbit/s.

At the end of last year, this speed gap was still a significant 7.6Mbit/s (an advertised average of 13.8Mbps and an actual of 6.2Mbps).

A major problem is that the majority of consumers can be lured in with the promise of one speed, only to receive another that is more two times slower when they finally get connected.

Broadband Advertising

Whilst Ofcom recommends that adverts on TV and billboards ought to display broadband speeds that can actually be delivered to at least 50% of real consumers around the country, it is important to understand that there are a myriad of factors which can also hamper their experience.

It is also important to note that over 75% of broadband connections in UK homes are still utilising the old copper telephone lines, with speeds for these consumers dependant on factors like the quality of the telephone line and distance to the local exchange.

Ofcom’s research has found that the average download speed received for these type of connections claiming ‘up to’ 20Mbps and 24Mbps services was actually 6.6Mbps, whilst more than a third of consumers (37%)on these broadband packages were actually getting average speeds of 4Mbps, or less in some cases.

A great way to test your own broadband speed, see how your current provider compares as well as check out what speeds your neighbours are getting is on our site at: http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest/.

Armed with these results, you will be far better equipped to speak to your existing provider if you feel you are stuck in the broadband slow lane, as well as better informed to move to another supplier if your current one is underperforming…

The process of migration is faster and easier than ever, and uSwitch is also able to help you compare the best broadband deals currently available in your area.