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Energy bills and literacy: A survey of UK adults

Added 13 May 2021 | Updated 12 May 21

This research report looks at bill payers’ understanding of energy bills. We worked alongside green energy supplier Octopus Energy to survey 2,520 energy bill payers in the UK.

Key findings

  • Younger bill payers struggle to read their energy bills because of the language used. A quarter of 18-to-24-year-olds find it difficult to understand their bills, compared to 1 in 7 adults across all age groups.
  • Poor readability is an important barrier to engagement with energy bills, particularly for these younger age groups. More than 1 in 5 (22.4%) of 18 to 24-year-olds responsible for paying bills said they sometimes avoided reading their bills because of the language used, compared with just 3.1% of the over 65s.
  • Younger bill payers were also less able to identify the correct definitions of six terms commonly used on bills (such as “kWh”, “standing charge” and “tariff”). Only 1 in 11 (9.0%) 18 to 24-year-olds could identify the correct definitions of all six common terms, compared with 4 in 5 (78.6%) bill payers over 65.
  • Simplifying the language used in energy bills would appeal to the majority of bill-payers, with almost two-thirds of bill payers agreeing that the language used in energy bills needed to be more accessible.

In response to this research we worked with Octopus Energy to create an interactive ‘bill explainer’ to clarify the six key terms often found on energy bills.

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