Energy Best Deal

Evaluating the success of a national campaign to give customers the best deal in the energy market

Project duration: January 2009 ongoing

There are many ways people can save money on their fuel bills, but one of the quickest and easiest ways is for consumers to make sure they are getting the best deal from their energy suppliers.

However, millions of households across the country have never changed supplier – and could be missing out on the savings that swapping to an alternative supplier would bring.

Average savings from switching supplier in 2009 were £264 per year (www.which.co.uk/switch/energy-advice/guide-to-switching-supplier), and switching websites are currently (September 2011) estimating savings of over £400 for switching both gas and electricity supplier.

This was the basis of a national programme – Energy Best Deal – which was first piloted by Citizens Advice, the umbrella organisation for all Citizens Advice Bureaux, in partnership with Ofgem, during early 2008.

According to the research carried out by Ofgem under their Consumer First programme, which led to the Energy Best Deal, there are a number of reasons why people don’t change. These include consumers:

  • not knowing where to go to check the tariff they are on
  • not being aware better deals are out there
  • reluctance to change through concern they may not be better off
  • being worried they may lose their fuel supply

The programme offers consumers, and frontline workers from a range of organisations supporting financial capability, the opportunity to attend one of a series of information sessions.

The sessions seek to inform domestic energy consumers about how they could reduce their energy costs by changing tariff or supplier. They also seek to raise awareness about the help that is available from both suppliers and government for those who are struggling to pay their energy bills, and about the help and advice that is available on benefits and tax credits, and for those in debt.

Following the pilot, a national Energy Best Deal programme was rolled out for England and Wales in 2008, and since then the programme has run every year, funded by energy suppliers. In 2011 Consumer Focus Scotland used Energy Best Deal as a model for its own programme, Energy Best Deal Scotland.

Each year, around 2,000 consumers and 1,500 frontline workers have attended sessions and learnt more about how to get the best deal on their energy supply.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy has evaluated the impact of the programme every year, with the evaluation funded by Ofgem. Almost 2,000 consumers and frontline workers participated in the evaluation in 2010, either through a completed questionnaire or through a follow-up telephone conversation.

The results proved the scheme had been very successful, with 82% (2010 result) of consumers indicating their intention to take action on their energy bills following their session. In follow-up interviews around two months after the session, a third of people had taken some kind of action to get a better deal. Internet access was important, with those with internet access much more likely to have looked into getting a better deal than those without.

Of the consumers who did look into changing, the results found that the majority said they had found it easy or fairly easy to work out if they would save money by switching.

The sessions also proved to have a successful impact on frontline advice workers. Almost all (97% in 2010) felt better informed after the sessions. Follow-up interviews showed more advice being given on the Energy Best Deal topics since the sessions, with a median of 15 clients being given information from Energy Best Deal per frontline advice worker in the months since the session.

CSE’s evaluation of the 2011/12 Energy Best Deal programme is available to download here.

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