Consumer group urges public to 'bulk buy' energy

 

A consumer organisation is launching a new campaign to get more energy customers to switch to cheaper tariffs by enabling them to group together in numbers to secure the best possible price for gas and electricity.

Which? said it has teamed up with the online campaigning group 38 Degrees to launch The Big Switch.

It explained how interested consumers will be asked to sign up by March 31 and then energy companies will be invited to submit deals and take part in a reverse auction.

The winning deal will then be offered to everyone who signed up and Which? will then handle the switching process.

Executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Thousands of people tell us that they want a much better, affordable energy deal. It's a £4 billion free kick for the energy companies if so many of us stick with their more expensive tariffs.

“The Government, regulator and energy companies have failed to move quickly enough to improve things for consumers when so many are struggling to pay their bills.

“That's why we decided to launch The Big Switch. This is a completely new way to buy energy as a group. The bigger the group, the stronger our bargaining power will be.

“We are urging anyone who is angry about the state of the energy market to sign up.”

The Big Switch is planned to take place during a single day as a reverse auction, which means energy companies will be invited to submit their lowest price per kilowatt of electricity and cubic meter of gas.

Which? said that once a deal has been secured, those who have signed up will be notified by either email or text message and they can then choose whether or not to accept it.

There will be no commitment or obligation to sign up with the new supplier.

Which? says UK consumers are collectively paying £4.1 billion a year more than they need to by not switching their energy tariff to the cheapest deal.

The organisers of The Big Switch are taking the campaign across the UK with a series of regional events in Reading, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff throughout February and March.

David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, said: “We're all sick of gas and electricity companies ripping us off. If thousands of customers band together, we'll have the bargaining power to do something about it.

“The big energy companies act like they're untouchable, but this people-powered campaign can turn the tables and bring down prices for everyone.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: “I'm delighted that Which? have developed their Big Switch, as I have long believed that collective purchasing will be a game-changer in terms of handing power back to consumers.

“It is a key feature of the Consumer Empowerment Strategy, Better Choice: Better Deals, I launched in April last year, when I also announced a £30,000 prize fund to stimulate ideas like collective switching.

“As Energy Secretary I am determined to take this agenda forward. I want to make it easier for consumers to club together and use collective purchasing power to reduce their gas and electricity bills. We are looking hard at how we can do this and how we can remove barriers to enable more initiatives like the Big Switch.

“At the same time we are working with Ofgem to simplify energy tariffs, make energy bills easier to understand, and boost competition in the market so that consumers can get the best deals.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “I'm delighted that Which? have developed their Big Switch, as I have long believed that collective purchasing will be a game-changer in terms of handing power back to consumers.

“It is a key feature of the Consumer Empowerment Strategy, Better Choice: Better Deals, I launched in April last year, when I also announced a £30,000 prize fund to stimulate ideas like collective switching.

“As Energy Secretary I am determined to take this agenda forward.

“I want to make it easier for consumers to club together and use collective purchasing power to reduce their gas and electricity bills.

“We are looking hard at how we can do this and how we can remove barriers to enable more initiatives like the Big Switch.

“At the same time, we are working with Ofgem to simplify energy tariffs, make energy bills easier to understand, and boost competition in the market so that consumers can get the best deals.”

PA

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