Citizens Advice response to consultation on the consumer experience at public chargepoints
Citizens Advice welcomes this consultation from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV), to improve the consumer experience at electric vehicle (EV) public chargepoints.
Achieving the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 will depend on the decarbonisation of our transport system, and switching to EVs will be a central pillar of this. The public charging infrastructure will be essential, especially for people who are unable to charge their EV at home. But at the moment, public charging options are inconvenient, unreliable and difficult to use.
Last year we responded to the government’s call for evidence on the consumer experience of public charging. We highlighted problems in 4 key areas: payment, data availability, reliability, and pricing transparency. Across these areas the same consumer problems remain, which is why we are pleased the government is making proposals to address these problems. We have considered the proposals in each of these 4 areas.
Consumers regularly complain that accessing public chargepoints is complicated. They regularly have to download and use multiple apps and RFID cards to pay for chargepoints. We found this type of problem in 19% of the complaints that we identified on Twitter.
We are pleased the consultation includes proposals that would require CPOs to mandate minimum payment methods which don’t require a mobile or fixed internet connection. Proposals aimed at implementing a roaming solution are also welcome, and should be developed as soon as possible.
Provision of data
In 19% of the tweets we looked at, people complained about the quality of the data about chargepoints on apps. Issues include chargepoints that are missing from apps, broken chargepoints showing as working, and displaying incorrect price information.
We support the proposal to adopt a standard for openly available data, and to mandate that data including location, power-rating and pricing is made available. This will be essential to ensure that consumers can have a full, live picture of their charging options.
The cost of charging at a public chargepoint can be difficult to understand, with 7% of the Twitter complaints we identified relating to this type of issue. In response to the consultation of June 2020 we called for the introduction of a p/kwh metric, and we are pleased to see this being proposed.
We understand that certain proposed exemptions to this metric are necessary. However, the government should be cautious about the possible unintended incentives that this could place on companies, and keep this under review.
In 58% of the complaints we analysed, people experienced problems when using a public chargepoint. Addressing these problems will be essential to improve consumer experience and confidence in EVs.
We therefore support the proposal to introduce a minimum availability metric of 99%, and think that this should be introduced as soon as possible. We also know that even with the right standards in place, things can still go wrong. That’s why we support the government's decision to make it mandatory for chargepoint operators (CPOs) to provide 24/7 helpline for consumers.
Alongside the proposals in this document in the above 4 areas, we are pleased to see the government seeking evidence on accessibility and safety. Evidence shows that many disabled users often struggle to access EV public chargepoints, and we think that the government should work with relevant stakeholders to regulate in this area.