Which? ‘Big Switch’ misses the mark

23 March 2012

Switch illustration

Ecotricity will not be bidding for the ‘Big Switch’ contract being auctioned by consumer group Which? – believing the campaign promotes predatory pricing and does nothing to solve the root cause of our rising energy bills.

While Ecotricity supports initiatives that encourage people to switch suppliers and get the best deal – particularly one that encourages investment in renewable energy – in its current form Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said the ‘Big Switch’ campaign was well wide of the mark, because it:

  • would breach our ethical pricing policy – Ecotricity have just two simple tariffs and everyone gets our best price no matter when they join or how they choose to pay; the idea of creating a new tariff giving Which? customers a preferential price over our loyal customers would just be unethical to us
  • encourages predatory pricing – the regulators, the media and consumer groups have all taken a stand against predatory pricing (where existing customers subsidise the discounts of new customers), yet this is exactly what this campaign is promoting
  • has no green outcome – the Big Switch focuses solely on price and does nothing to tackle the long term reason for our rising bills – our unsustainable dependence on imported fossil fuels
  • has an ambiguous commercial outcome – Which?, as a charity, should have made it clearer they were charging a fee and could make big money from the campaign.

Vince said: “Instead of reducing tariffs and ensuring that all customers get the best deal, this campaign adds yet another tariff and pricing option to an already saturated market.  

“While focusing solely on price, Which? are doing nothing to tackle the real culprit behind rising bills – our unsustainable dependence on foreign energy.

“Ultimately the big problem is our lack of energy independence.  The nettle that needs grasping is not short term shopping around, it is long term investment in green energy sources, to dig us out of this hole.

”The increasing price of imported gas added £120 to energy bills last year alone according to Ofgem, while investment in renewable energy added just £15 – with onshore wind making up just £4.68.

“If we are to solve the issue of rising energy bills in the long term, and do it sustainably – then we not only need to switch energy supplier but we need to switch energy sources – to greener British-made energy.

In addition, Ecotricity believe Which? should have made it clear to the public that they were charging a fee that could net them up to £8million.

“Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the campaign is the least known, that Which? could earn up to £8million.  With around 200,000 people signing up and with Which? asking the successful bidder for a fee of £40 per customer, they stand to make up to £8million from this process – that is a lot of money,” Vince said. 

“This is not an attack on Which? who generally do a good job, but we feel if they want to become an energy broker, they need to make it clear to the public that this is not a purely charitable campaign and has a definite commercial outcome.” 

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