Domestic customers stay with British Gas
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 ."
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
iJobs Money & Business
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...
£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...