The Big Switch – further information

**UPDATE**

What happens after I’ve entered information about my gas and electricity use?

Once the Which? experts have the information they need to bargain with the gas and electricity companies, they will hold a ‘reverse auction’. The companies will compete with each other to offer all of us the best deal with the lowest price.

When a winning deal is reached, Which? will start calculating how much each of us can save. Then you’ll get an email with a link you can click to take you to a page where you can see an estimate of how much you personally can save by switching to the winning company. The estimate will be based on your current gas and electricity use.

If you think the deal is a good option for you, then you can switch easily online using the special Big Switch website.

Further information about The Big Switch

1 What is the Big Switch?
The Big Switch is a new way for us to take the power back from big gas and electricity companies. 38 Degrees and Which? are teaming up to get a fair deal on our gas and electricity bills. We’ll bargain as a group with gas and electricity companies to persuade them to give us the lowest price.

The idea is simple: individually we don’t have much power to change the prices of big gas and electricity companies, but by bargaining together we can put ourselves in a stronger position to get a fair deal.

2 How does it work?
First you sign up online to register your interest in taking part in The Big Switch. You’ll get an email confirming your registration. It would be great if you could share with as many people as we can to make sure we have as much bargaining power as possible – so please invite your friends and family.

You’ll then be emailed asking to give a little bit more information, such as who your current gas and electricity supplier is. This information is needed for the deal to be struck with gas and electricity companies.

Registration closes on the 31st March. The expert negotiators at Which? will then start bargaining with the energy companies using a ‘reverse auction’. This normally takes place over a day and companies compete to give us the lowest price per kilowatt of electricity and cubic meter of gas.

Once the deal has been secured, you’ll be notified via email and you can choose whether or not to accept it. There’s no commitment or obligation to sign-up with the new supplier, so if people decide to stay with their existing gas and electricity company, that’s absolutely fine too.

Accepting the switch is really simple. No one needs to visit your house and it takes effect within 4-6 weeks.

3 Why should I take part?
By working together we’ll challenge the power of the big gas and electricity companies and make sure that everyone can get a fairer deal. We can shake up the market and help end the confusing number of tariffs and rip-off prices. You’ll can also get cheaper bills and help your friends and family save money.

4 What do I have to do to take part?
It’s very easy – you just need to visit the 38 Degrees Big Switch signup page or the Which? site and fill in your name, postcode and email address before 31 March 2012. You’ll then be contacted by email with a few more questions about your current gas and electricity supplier(s) and tariff(s) so that experts can negotiate the best deal with the gas and electricity suppliers.

Finally, once the new deal has been negotiated with a gas and electricity company, you’ll be be emailed to let you know exactly how much you can save by switching, and the next steps to switch.

5 If I sign up do I have to switch?
No – there’s absolutely no obligation to switch after you’ve registered your interest. Once we’ve got an offer from a gas and electricity company and you’ve provided a bit more information about your current bills, you’ll get an email with an estimate of how much money you will save – so you can decide whether you want to switch or not.

6 Will I definitely save money?
At this stage there’s no guarantee how much people will save, but with enough people power we’re aiming to secure one of the best deals in the market, so we’re hopeful most of us will be able to save something.

Once the deal has been secured we’ll be able to provide you with information telling you if you will save money.

7 How much will I save?
It depends on what type of tariff you’re already on, and what deal the gas and electricity companies offer. However, we’re aiming to secure a market leading deal, so we’re hopeful most people will be able to save something.

Once we’ve got an offer from the gas and electricity company and you’ve provided a bit more information about your current bills, you’ll get an email with your tailored savings estimates – so you can see how much money you’ll save by switching.

8 How long will it take?
The 38 Degrees office team and Which? can’t say for sure. Sign up will close at the end of March and we expect that the deal with the gas and electricity company will happen in April.

9 Has this ever been done before?
Which?’s sister organisation in the Netherlands, Consumentenbond, has successfully tried the concept of ‘collective switching’ using a reverse auction. They successfully negotiated a gas and electricity deal for 20,000 consumers. This is the first time it’s been done in the UK – that’s why it’s so exciting.

10 If you can save money by switching tariffs, why don’t more people do it?
Lots of us find it tricky to switch gas and electricity supplier. We know that 60% of consumers have never switched supplier, and 75% are currently on their supplier’s ‘default’ Standard tariff. The number of different tariff options available is baffling, and Which?’s investigations have shown that people can’t work out how much they should be paying from their gas and electricity bills.

11 Do I have to be willing to take up an online tariff to take part?
Not necessarily. The 38 Degrees office team and Which? can’t confirm the type of tariff that will be on offer until we’ve negotiated with the gas and electricity suppliers so it’s well worth signing up with the Big Switch so you’re to be in with the chance of securing a cheaper deal on your gas and electricity bills.

12 Do I have to pay my bills by Direct Debit to take part?
Not necessarily. The 38 Degrees office team and Which? can’t confirm the type of tariff we’ll be able to offer until we’ve negotiated with the gas and electricity suppliers so it’s well worth signing up with the Big Switch so you’re to be in with the chance of securing a cheaper deal on your gas and electricity bills.

13 Do you make any money out of this?
38 Degrees does not make any money by running this campaign. We are a not-for-profit that relies on donations from thousands of 38 Degrees members all over the UK.

Which? receives a small fee for each new contract switched to a new gas and electricity supplier. These agreements do not affect who the deal is negotiated with. Which? is a not for profit and the fees go towards Which? campaigns to make individuals as powerful as the organisations they face in everyday life.

14 What happens if the gas and electricity companies don’t particpate?
There is no guarantee that the gas and electricity companies will participate, however there is a strong incentive for them to do so. The more of us that are involved the stronger that incentive is.

15 Will there be a “green tariff” option?
We’ll be seeking to negotiate with all the energy companies, including those who focus on producing energy from renewable sources like ecotricity and good energy. We really hope that they will decide to take part and offer us a good deal.

16 38 Degrees campaigns to tackle climate change – so shouldn’t you be in favour of higher bills to bring down fossil fuel use?
38 Degrees members regularly take action to push the government to tackle climate change – most recently campaigning for Nick Clegg to block efforts to import oil from Canadian tar sands into Europe.

38 Degrees members have also voted to challenge rip-off gas and electricity prices. We’ve seen that gas and electricity prices are rising, even when wholesale prices fall. We’ve seen huge profits from gas and electricity companies. And we’ve seen rising levels of fuel poverty. If, with more and more families in the UK unable to afford to heat their homes.

Most 38 Degrees members don’t see a contradiction between wanting to tackle climate change and wanting to tackle rip-off gas and electricity bills – because we don’t believe that the way to bring down carbon emissions is to allow the big energy companies to make excessive profits and drive prices to levels which stop poor people being able to afford to heat their homes. Fuel poverty now affects nearly 7,000,000 households in the UK, its highest level ever. That’s not sustainable or fair.

Tackling climate change does not need to mean millions of people living in homes which are too cold. Real solutions to climate change and fossil fuel dependency exist and 38 Degrees will continue to campaign in favour of them. For example buildings need to be better insulated and investment in renewables will reduce our vulnerability to fluctuations in global gas and oil prices. 38 Degrees members will continue to campaign for things like this to happen alongside campaigning against energy company profiteering.

17 Will you negotiate on criteria other than price?
Not this time, but maybe in the future. This is the first time a big switch has been attempted in the UK. So we need to keep it simple this time and focus on driving down prices. But one of the reasons this campaign is so exciting is it could prove  that people powered switching can force companies to change their behaviour. If that works, then in the future we can talk together about other criteria we want to use for future big switches – for example green credentials, specific types of tariff, customer service standards. We can also think about other industries that might need the big switch treatment. This is only the beginning!

18 I’ve chosen the deal based on green credentials, not price – are you suggesting I switch to a “dirtier” supplier?
We will be approaching all the energy companies including those with green credentials, and hope they’ll offer a good deal.

In the end whether you switch or not will be up to you. But if you are happy with the deal you have got from a greener supplier, then possibly this particular campaign isn’t for you.

Most people in the UK aren’t currently on green tariffs, 60% of consumers have never switched supplier, and 75% are currently on their supplier’s ‘default’ Standard tariff.

This campaign aims to challenge the power of the “big six” energy suppliers, not to encourage people to shift away from green tariffs.

19 I’m signed up to a tariff for a fixed time period, with a penalty charge for leaving early. Will the Big Switch work for me?
Possibly. The 38 Degrees office team and Which? can’t confirm the type of tariff that will be on offer until we’ve negotiated with the gas and electricity suppliers. It’s well worth signing up with the Big Switch so you hear more and can work out whether it will save you money.

Once we’ve got an offer from the gas and electricity company and you’ve provided a bit more information about your current bills, you’ll get an email with your tailored savings estimates – so you can see how much money you’ll save by switching and whether it’s worth paying the penalty charge for leaving your old deal early.