The big switch: Consumers urged to act together to undercut Big Six

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Energy bosses tried to explain their price rises to MPs last month. Now their customers can vote with their feet by changing supplier

More than a million households are poised to swap energy suppliers in a move of unprecedented magnitude in Britain.

In a dramatic escalation of pressure by the Government on energy suppliers over their soaring prices, homes across London and in 77 local authority areas, helped by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, can change their fuel provider this Tuesday.

Ed Davey, the Climate Change Secretary, said "people are fed up with the Big Six" and that collective switching was a way for families, particularly the fuel-poor, to regain control over their energy bills.

Collective switching can secure greater discounts because companies can offer cheaper prices to a large group of people – a form of collective bargaining. It also allows smaller firms to break into the market because they can attract a lot of customers at once.

Householders need to register by midnight tomorrow and on Tuesday energy firms, through local authorities or third party websites, auction their best prices to registered customers. Although 77 local authorities are managing the auctions, anyone in Britain can sign up, meaning potentially millions could pull the plug on the Big Six.

Anger over above-inflation price rises by British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.ON, SSE and Scottish Power has been sustained since September, when Ed Miliband, in his party conference speech, pledged a Labour government would freeze utility bills for 20 months. The policy triggered a rush by suppliers to ratchet up prices. Firms have also blamed the Government's green taxes for price hikes as high as 9.1 per cent. British Gas price rises of 8.4 per cent for gas and 10.4 per cent for electricity take effect on Saturday.

Mr Davey said he had changed his supplier from EDF to Sainsbury's Energy in a smaller-scale collective switch in June, saving him £240 this year. So far collective schemes have led to 21,000 households switching their supplier, saving a total of £2.7m and an average of £131 per home. Thousands more registered but decided not to switch, instead using the offer to bargain with their existing supplier.

Mr Davey said: "The more people get involved, the more people get a much bigger discount that means they can take on the Big Six.

"There is a lot of evidence that a lot of people are saving a lot of money. We are particularly targeting it at the more vulnerable and fuel-poor. A lot of people are worried about switching, because they feel they may not get a good deal. Many people don't trust energy companies and who can blame them?

"No one trusts the Big Six because of their appalling performance, doorstep selling or frankly high tariff rises. This is one of the reasons we forced them to be more transparent, forcing more competition. This is one of our methods, to enable people to use a third party who they can trust."

The website reported a 600 per cent increase in switching in October. An Independent on Sunday ComRes poll found that 70 per cent of people believe it is "quite easy" to change power supplier, while 13 per cent say they have switched in the past month. People can sign up to the Big Community Switch, Big London Energy Switch or local authority websites tomorrow before the auction takes place on Tuesday. The websites will transfer people to who power the scheme.

The day after the auction, information on the winning supplier will be available online, and from 29 November households will receive a personal offer. People with limited access to the internet are being encouraged to register through their local authority.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is in discussions with Cornwall Energy about ways to get more independent suppliers involved in collective switches. Last night, the Big Six faced further criticism after it was revealed they had only completed a fraction of the green and social measures they are required to carry out, despite taking more than £1bn from customers.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little