Ofgem Retail Market Review

Ofgem toady (21/02/2013) offered an insight into its latest efforts to reform the energy market (see our previous comment here).
Ofgem’s full statement can be downloaded here.
Ofgem will release a full document in March. After a final consultation round Ofgem expects suppliers to voluntarily agree to the changes kicking in late in 2013 – or face binding new legislation.
Here are some of the key reforms suggested by the document:

  • Suppliers will not be forced to transfer customers en masse to other suppliers.
  • Suppliers will have to eliminate preserved (termed ‘dead’ in the release) tariffs that bring ‘no value’ and transfer these customers onto their cheapest variable rate.
  • All tariffs must have a standing charge and a unit rate. If so, then this may impact some smaller supplier whose tariffs are made up of just a unit rate. It is not crystal clear whether suppliers would be allowed to create tariffs with a Standing Charge and two unit rates.
  • Suppliers have to tell their customers on the bill what their cheapest tariff is.
  • Discounts appear to no longer form part of a tariff. Customers will be able to mix and match tariffs with discounts but the documents offers no details on this.

And this is not yet clear:

  • Do suppliers have to offer the same tariff choice for all payment methods, incl. for prepayment meters? This is not explicitly stated in the document, but is potentially important as it may have big implications on tariff choice for traditionally more expensive payment methods, such as prepayment, where suppliers have generally not been eager to compete. The same question applies for fuel types – do suppliers have to make all their tariffs available as dual fuel, gas and electricity tariffs?
  • Tariff proliferation may not really end if customers are asked to mix and match discounts with tariffs and have the choice of all fuel types. The number of tariffs and tariff variations could potentially explode further. It is not yet clear how this will work.

Our preliminary conclusion is:

  • Customers will still have to compare supplier tariff deals against each other – nothing in the document suggests that energy suppliers will have to do this job for them.
  • We see no incentive for suppliers to offer cheap variable rates.
  • The market will shift in a big way to fixed rate deals.

What is clear is that lots of change is coming…

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Energy auctions are going, going…

…and look like they are here to stay!
Collective switching (the trendier byword for energy auctions) arrived last summer and is set to grow.
What is it and how does it work?
Collective Switching schemes are typically organised at the local level. Local councils (with funds from central government) have taken the lead in promoting these schemes.
A typical scheme works like this:

    1. Signing up to a collective switching scheme should be free and without obligation. If you’re charged to sign up then you are probably dealing with a scam. Avoid!
    2. You need to know who supplies your energy, what tariff you are on and how much energy you use in order to register.
    3. You need to sign up to the scheme before the stated closing date.
    4. The auction will run after the closing date. What this means is that the organisation in charge of the scheme is canvassing the energy suppliers for bids and calculating the best one for you.
    5. About a week after the closing date you should expect to hear back with a quote offer – i.e. the best deal for you. Then you either commit to switch or you don’t.

Why are collective switching schemes a good thing?
Collective switching schemes seem to reach people that do not use comparison websites to switch to the best deal. That is a good thing because switching is the lifeblood of a competitive energy market. The more people switch the more competitive the market becomes and that is good for all of us (well, perhaps not the suppliers).
Are collective switching schemes better than switching through a comparison website?
Online comparison and collective switching address different markets. If you are comfortable switching online through this website, then by all means (please) do. You are here anyway, right?
Collective switching is currently successful because it brings consumer choice to people who may not be active in the energy market.
And before you ask: besides running this website we also have a big hand in providing switching schemes with tariff data and software services. So we can afford to be neutral in this debate!
What collective energy schemes are currently open for sign-up?
As of today we know of these schemes. By the way, you don’t need to live in these places to sign up!
Surreyswitchandsave” for Surrey County Council
Power up your community” for South Lakeland District Council
NorwichBigSwitchandSave” for Norwich City Council
Recently closed schemes:

  • “Ready to Switch” campaign for Blackpool Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Hull City Council, London Borough of Havering Council, Luton Borough Council, Northumberland County Council, South Holland District Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council, Waveney District Council, Wiltshire Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council with Peterborough City Council as lead Council, Started in November 2012 and closed last week
  • “Great Manchester Fair Energy” campaign for Bolton Council, Bury Council, Manchester City Council, Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, Salford City Council, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Tameside Metropolitan Borough, Trafford Council, Wigan Council, Calderdale Council, Gloucestershire County Council and St. Helens Council with Oldham Council as lead Council. Started in December and closed last week.

Up and coming schemes
Check back for information about new schemes coming soon.

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Introducing Energy Supplier Ratings

We have just launched our Star Ranking for suppliers. As with everything else we try to do, we have kept things simple and relevant. The ranking is displayed with every tariff and shows the likelihood of a supplier successfully processing an application, based on the supplier’s statistical track record. We will review and update these rankings periodically.
5 Stars: 95% or more of applications received are processed ok at the first go
4 Stars: 90-95% of applications received are processed ok
3 Stars: 85-90% of applications received are processed ok
2 Stars: 80-85% of applications received are processed ok
1 Star: Less than 80% of applications are procesed ok
No Star: We don’t know enough about this supplier to advise a ranking
Continue reading

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Happy New Year!

Time flies when you’re having fun, and gone is another year of helping people find a better energy supplier.
OK. Perhaps not ‘better’. But at least cheaper…(Our New Years Resolution is to be little less cynical, by the way)
To everybody out there: We Wish You A Good Time All Of The Time in 2013!

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TheEnergyShop.com on CNBC

Check out our contribution to the latest edition of CNBC’s The Business Class. As usual this edition (number six in the series) is hosted by investment guru James Caan of Dragon’s Den fame who invited our own Joe Malinowski as an expert advisor.
The subject of the programme is Ovo Energy, a start-up energy supplier launched by Stephen Fitzpatrick to take on the big guys. The big question that the programme seeks to answer is: where next now that the business has grown its customer base to about 100,000 households…

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We win Finance Website of the Year!

www.TheEnergyShop.com won the Good Web Guide Website of the Year Award in the Finance category last night. We are the Website of the Year. Us!
Boy are we proud today. And a little dazed. And certainly a bit hung over.
Here is a snap of the team last night when we were still sober-ish.
The Three Musketeers of Energy Switching!
We wanted the new site to set benchmarks in ease-of-use and content richness. This prestigious prize is a big Thumbs Up for us.
A ton of thanks goes to our friends at D3R for lending us a big hand.
OK, we’re choking up now. Time to end this post.

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npower application issues Nov 2012


npower have told us this morning that the recent backlog of applications has been cleared as of last night. Customers who have switched in the last few weeks and who have yet to be contacted by npower should expect to receive their welcome packs shortly.
Please let us know if you are still waiting to hear from npower in a few days!
UPDATE NOVEMBER 23RD: Although applications are reportedly (by npower) getting processed there remains a bottleneck in sending out welcome packs. We will update this post as we receive more information.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 27TH. No further news from npower about the resolution of this problem except that “we are working on it”. We do understand from a number of customer emails and phone calls that welcome packs have still not been received.
Following a conference call with senior npower representatives, we have been asked to disseminate the following statement:

“If you have recently switched to npower, you may have seen a delay in receiving your welcome pack. We are working closely with npower to ensure that all customers are made aware of this issue. In the meantime, we’re pleased to tell you that your supply is in the process of being switched and that npower will be in touch with you soon about confirming your agreement and your new account details.
You do not need to do anything, however if you would like to discuss this matter further, please call npower on 0800 073 3000.”

We have received the following verbal reassurances from npower:

    1) Applications are proceeding.
    2) Welcome packs will be generated and sent out by the middle of next week [week commencing December 03rd].
    3) Customers wishing to cancel anyway can do so, even if their application was made more than two weeks ago (2 weeks is npower’s ‘cooling-off’ period’)

Based on what we have heard we do hope that npower have indeed now taken the necessary steps to move on from here.
The following npower update was provided by email today:

  • All welcome packs are now ready and we are part-way through sending these out.
  • By Monday [10th December] we will have sent out all outstanding welcome letters.
  • All customers should therefore receive their packs by the mid-part of next week [week commencing December 10th].
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Feed In Tariffs and switching energy supplier – help!

We have had quite a few enquiries lately from customers with Feed-In-Tariff installations on their roof. ‘If we switch,’ the question goes, ‘what will happen to our Feed-In-Tariff?’
(For those of you who think that a Feed-In-Tariff is another way of ordering food in: The FIT scheme is a government subsidy for people who want to generate electricity from renewable sources, like solar panels. This subsidy is paid out by a supplier). Continue reading

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