Fair Energy

Energy suppliers turned off by 'Big Switch' scheme

Critics say Which? plan is unfair and will boost organisation's profits

More than 250,000 people have signed up to get cheaper home energy deals through collective bargaining. But the "Big Switch" scheme set up by the consumer group Which? could fail because rivals have accused the organisation of using the scheme to boost its profits.

Meanwhile, several energy suppliers – including two of the six biggest companies – have ruled themselves out of becoming involved, and a rival scheme was yesterday launched by the price comparison website Energyhelpline.

Which? reports today that a quarter of a million people have signed up to its campaign and 1,000 more are doing so every day. It plans to hold a reverse auction on 26 April, when energy firms can bid for the business, with the lowest bid winning.

But five energy companies have said they will not take part, including Scottish and Southern Energy and smaller suppliers Ecotricity, Good Energy and Ovo Energy. On Thursday, British Gas added itself to that growing list as it accused the Which? proposals of not being simple, transparent and fair for all customers. It said the deal could mean below-cost pricing for new customers and that some customers would be excluded from taking part.

It also claimed Which? was not being transparent about the money it will make from the Big Switch. The group plans to charge £40 a customer, about the same comparison sites charge. Critics point out that if Which? successfully gets a deal for the 250,000 households signed up to its Big Switch campaign, it will make £10m. But a spokesman for Which? said: "Estimations like this are unhelpful and misleading. At this stage it is simply not possible to know whether we will even cover our costs."

It criticised suppliers that have ruled themselves out of the negotiations. "If suppliers are not willing to engage with hundreds of thousands of potential new customers, it speaks volumes about why this industry needs urgent reform."

The comparison website Energyhelpline launched its similarly-named "Huge Switch" scheme yesterday, with a promise to undercut Which?'s fees.

Mark Todd, the director of Energyhelpline.com, said: "We agree with the concept of the Which? Big Switch but feel there are flaws. We have come up with a solution that would provide more choice and flexibility."

The site will tell people who sign up which is the best deal currently available. Cynics would suggest the move is designed to drive fresh customers to the website to increase profits.

British Gas said it would be prepared to talk to Energyhelpline. Ian Peters, the managing director of energy at British Gas, said: "We support the principles of collective buying and switching, but any new buying mechanism must be simple, transparent and fair."

This week, the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, summoned utility companies, consumer groups, charities and the regulator, Ofgem, to a meeting about collective bargaining. "I want to make it easier for consumers to club together and use their collective purchasing power to get good deals on their gas and electricity," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Development Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of fl...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders