Research published by RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers) looks at the accessibility of energy price comparison and switching websites, and offers a guide for disabled and older consumers to choose the best site for their needs.
Ahead of energy prices rising in the autumn, RiDC, with funding from the Energy Redress Scheme, surveyed more than 500 members of its pan-disability consumer panel to understand whether comparison sites fully meet disabled and older people’s information needs. A group of panel members then took part in interviews and evaluated the most popular 16 sites identified for accessibility, to create a guide for consumers.
The research found that three quarters (75.5%) of respondents used additional energy because of their disability, primarily for heating their homes and washing. 63.3% of them said they have higher energy bills and more than half (54.3%) experience financial difficulty as a result.
Gordon McCullough, CEO at RiDC said:
“This project suggests there is a significant need among disabled and older people to find the best energy deals as so many of them struggle to pay their bills.
However, energy switching and comparison sites don't all contain the information or features that are needed. For example, the Warm Home Discount could be hugely beneficial to many people but half of the sites we looked at don’t include this in the filter options when users are doing a search.
Energy comparison and switching websites can and should do a lot better in making sure disabled and older people can access the information they need."
The completed guide outlines the key accessibility and other important website features to look out for. It also lists the 16 most popular sites identified by respondents and tells us on which of these you can expect to see these key features.
Accessibility features identified include: support for screen-readers, good colour contrast, plain and understandable language and clear instructions and support among others. Other features noted were if the website was Ofgem accredited, had a helpline service, if it required an email address to view quotes or included an accessibility statement, amoung others.
It is hoped that the research will not only support disabled and older people to identify sites that are accessible to them and make informed decisions about their energy provider, but also encourage the energy sector to do more to meet the needs of these customers. There are already accessibility regulations in place for public sector bodies websites, and RiDC would like to see more sectors following suit.
You can access the guide and see the research results on the RiDC website:
Funded through the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme www.energyredress.org.uk