Energy firms urged to print QR codes on bills
Quick Response (QR) codes are to be introduced on energy bills in a bid to make it easier for consumers to switch to another provider, the government has announced.
The codes, which can be scanned by smartphones and tablets, will allow customers to upload their energy consumption and tariff data, giving them the exact information about how much energy they are using.
The government hopes this information could then be uploaded to price comparison websites so the consumer can check if they're on a competitive tariff or identify the best deal possible.
As there has been no voluntary move by the energy sector to implement QR codes, the government is undertaking a consultation to consider whether to alter energy company licences to force them to have the codes included on all bills.
Energy Minister Ed Davey said: "We're determined to make energy markets work better for consumers - and despite all the evidence showing that QR codes on bills would make a real difference to people, energy companies still haven't done anything about it.
"That's why we're acting to make sure people have a quick, straightforward way to compare the best deal for them with a simple swipe of their phone."
Judith Donovan, chairwoman of the Keep Me Posted campaign, cautiously welcomed the news but highlighted the fact that a significant proportion of customers don't use a smartphone or a tablet.
"Although a QR code is a welcome innovation to improve competition, there is still work to be done to protect how consumers receive their bills," she said.
"Our research shows that most customers like a combination of paper and online (76%). Smartphone usage is not prevalent among the seven million Britons who have never used the internet.
She added: "Our statistics show that 86% of individuals aged 75 and over view their financial statements purely on paper. Even amongst those aged under 24, the proportion currently viewing their statements on paper is around 47%."
According to new figures released today by trade body Energy UK, around a quarter of a million customers switched electricity provider in February.
A spokesman for the group said the figures were down to improved customer information and simpler tariffs, as well as an increase in interest in smaller energy suppliers.