If you are like most consumers, trying to understand the industry jargon that appears every month on your energy bills is like trying to solve an advanced mathematics equation according to a satisfaction survey conducted by Which? magazine.

The Plain English Campaign recently received an assortment of energy bills sent from Which? magazine. They described the bills as riddled with unintelligible words. The language used on the bills confused most people, especially when one person noted that a minus sign actually meant a credit. Terms such as calorific value or normal primary units are examples of the sort of language used on the bills.

Nearly one quarter of those who agreed to answer the questions spoke of  difficulties trying to understand what they actually owed the energy company. For example, one Npower customer  could not explain how they arrived at the costs on his bill.  The reason the customer selected Npower in the first place was because he believed the energy company to be inexpensive but now he can’t tell if the service is cheaper or not.

Which? magazine’s contributing writers concluded that improved energy bills should include basic features such as  a simple summary. It should be easy to read and in plain language.

When Which? analyzed  the survey responses, they discovered that all of the big six electricity and gas utilities achieved some of the lowest customer satisfaction rates the magazine had ever seen. Npower trailed in the ratings for a third consecutive year with 28%. British Gas fared not much better at 38%.

The energy companies with the highest satisfaction ratings included Utility Warehouse with 75%, and Ebico with a 66% customer satisfaction rating. Even banks rated higher than this group of energy industry leaders!

Which? magazine’s editor Martyn Hocking said that it would make sense that some energy customers might think of food when they read ‘calorific value,’ which could lead to an understandable confusion.   He also questioned the ability of consumers to proactively cut their monthly usage of energy if they cannot possibly understand the language used on their monthly energy bills. He concluded that better customer-oriented services and clearer language printed on the monthly energy bills would go a long way to helping the overall success of the energy companies.