Domestic customers stay with British Gas

Government hopes for a spectacular start to competition in the domestic gas market are set to be dashed. Fewer than 30,000 customers plan to abandon British Gas in favour of other suppliers on the kick-off date of 29 April for the initial trial.

This will be a severe disappointment to the Government. Some industry sources had been predicting a switch of 60,000. Ofgas, the industry watchdog, had privately earmarked 50,000 - 10 per cent of customers in the South- west where the initial phase is to go ahead.

Most rival companies, which include electricity firms and North Sea producers, are unwilling to comment on the extent of their inroads into the market. South Western Electricity's gas division, one of the most aggressive of the newcomers, said: "We cannot give any numbers at the moment. It has a certain commercial sensitivity."

According to industry insiders, one large company is so dismayed by its lack of penetration that it is considering changing its name.

The final figures for those going over to new suppliers on 29 April have by now been given to British Gas' pipeline arm, Transco, in order to ensure a smooth transition. British Gas declined to comment on the figures but one company source said: "There have not been as many as expected. It does show that a lot of people want to stay with British Gas".

The sluggish take-off is, however, a double-edged sword for British Gas, which will face tough regulation until competition is established. The company feels it cannot drop prices in the South-west to match cuts of 15 per cent and more being offered by rivals, for fear of being seen to act anti-competitively.

A company spokesman said: "We cannot go out and compete on a level playing field until market share has gone. That is what the whole process is all about.

"It is important to remember that these are the first tiny steps in an evolution that will take place over two years as competition spreads throughout the UK."

Many in the industry will blame the initial disappointment on aggressive or misleading doorstep selling techniques by some firms. Sweb and CalorTex have been criticised by the Gas Consumers Council, which was outraged by complaints from customers in the area. Sweb was also severely rebuked by local trading standards officers.

Sweb's gas arm had 41,000 potential customers but many of those are thought to have later retracted. A company source admitted to a "large number" of subsequent rejections.

Ofgas is now launching a campaign to inform customers that they have seven says to change their mind after signing up to a supplier as the result of an unsolicited visit.

The GCC has also issued warnings. Ian Powe, its director, said: "Our advice is to sign nothing until people know what British Gas intends to offer customers ."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore