Survey: Customers want prepaid utility options

Dive Brief:

  • A new survey by DEFG finds significant interest in pre-paid energy options as consumers look to take control over their bills and avoid surprises.
  • About 17% of consumers indicated a high level of interest in prepaid options, the report finds.
  • The firm noted overall interest in energy prepay options declined from a 2013 survey, however, possibly reflecting an improving economy.

Dive Insight:

Prepaid options are increasingly a part of the U.S. economy, and a survey of 1,000 consumers by management consulting firm DEFG found a significant interest in taking that model into the utility space.

“Customers who choose prepay energy as a voluntary option are highly satisfied that their needs are being met in regard to how they pay their utility bills in a manner aligned with their lifestyles and family budgets,” stated Jamie Wimberly, CEO of DEFG. “In particular, prepay energy can be a much preferred alternative to high security deposits and cumbersome payment arrangements.”

The percentage of Americans surveyed who are interested in a voluntary prepaid energy option to pay utility bills decreased from 41% in 2013 to 32% percent in 2014. DEFG said the decrease could be attributed to less of a perceived need as the economy improves. But the percentage interested in a voluntary prepaid energy option remained high, with 17% of respondents saying they were “extremely” or “very” interested.

“Prepay energy has become an interesting test case of the willingness for stakeholders in the utility sector to allow for customer-facing innovation in regard to new products and services,” Wimberly said. “It challenges a number of the foundational tenets of how the sector has been regulated and organized. Yet, for some consumers at least, it is quite simple: Give the people what they want.”

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