Switched On: Are Switching Sites a Sign of Healthy or Broken Markets?

Dec 14, 2016

Time & Date
16th January 2017

15:30  |  Registration
16:00  |  Event Starts
17:30  |  Event Ends

Venue

6th Floor
8-10 Great George Street
Westminster
SW1P 3A

Speakers included:

 

Amanda Milling MP, Member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Rt. Hon. Sir Ed Davey, Chairman of Mongoose Energy and former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Retail Markets at Citizens Advice

Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch

Will Hodson, Co-Founder of The Big Deal

 

The accepted wisdom these days is that if you want to get the best deal on energy or other utilities, then you need to switch. The Government and regulators have promoted switching as a way for consumers to get a better deal, and create more competition between suppliers – for example through the ‘Be An Energy Shopper’ and ‘Power to Switch’ campaigns. The number of switchers is increasing – with 7.3 million households switching their gas or electricity supplier over the last 12 months alone.

In principle, switching is a great idea. Consumers on Standard Variable Tariffs for their gas and electricity can generally save around £300 by switching to one of the cheapest deals. Most people switch through a Price Comparison Website or Digital Comparison Tool of some kind. The number and range of these tools has increased steadily over the past decade, as noted in a recent review by the UK Regulators Network.

However, switching is not entirely without its issues. This event will explore the debate about whether switching sites are delivering a good deal for consumers, considering the following questions:

Are price comparison services a sign of healthy or broken markets? Does the growth of price comparison services and intermediaries between consumers and suppliers reflect healthy innovation or impenetrable market structures?

How should switching sites be regulated? Few consumers realise that switching sites are generally operated by commercial companies which take commission when they switch. To what extent can these companies trusted to act impartially in the best interest of consumers? Should switching sites be required to display all deals available in the market, or not?

Why don’t more people switch? As illustrated in a recent Policy Exchange Blog, energy has become a ‘tale of two markets’ – with ‘switchers’ getting a good deal on their energy, and ‘non-switchers’ being left behind. Non-switchers are disproportionately likely to be vulnerable or elderly households, on lower incomes, less educated, or have poorer access to technology. How can policy-makers engage with these consumers?

What does best practice look like? What can we learn from other consumer markets about how best to regulate Price Comparison Websites? This event will consider both energy and other consumer markets, linking in with the  ongoing review of Digital Comparison Tools by the Competition and Markets Authority, and the recent report by the UK Regulators Network.

 

This event was kindly supported by Citizens Advice and the UK Regulators Network

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