by Megan Bentall Feb 20th, 2017
How do your energy switches work?
Who are the Big Deal and what’s their relationship to 38 Degrees?
38 Degrees members are working with the Big Deal to negotiate this switch, to make sure 38 Degrees remains completely independent. There are always risks involved in being part of a switch as a people-powered organisation, as it involves making deals (albeit people-powered deals) with a company. Working with The Big Deal means 38 Degrees doesn’t risk our independence by entering into a direct financial relationship with an energy company.
The Big Deal is a for-profit business that specialises in collective energy switching. It runs regular campaigns highlighting the wrongs of the energy industry and fighting for consumer rights. Big Deal campaigns have demanded fair prices from suppliers, transparency from comparison sites and negotiated money-saving deals.
They revealed how the multi million pound profit making price comparison companies like uSwitch and Compare the Market hid the cheapest deals from consumers because they didn’t get a kickback from energy companies. The Big Deal’s research led to an investigation by the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee of MPs and to the energy regulator Ofgem cracking down on these websites.
38 Degrees evaluated a few different potential partners for the energy switch before selecting The Big Deal. Our top priority was to identify an ethical and effective business who could help 38 Degrees members make collective consumer decisions. We decided to work with The Big Deal because it combines industry expertise with a commitment to people-power and consumer rights.
Henry de Zoete and Will Hodson are the co-founders of The Big Deal. Henry de Zoete sits on the 38 Degrees board, and became a board member in 2015, before 38 Degrees started doing switches with the Big Deal. He brings expertise on people powered switching and consumer campaigning, as well as being a strong supporter of 38 Degrees’ mission. 38 Degrees has strong policies in place to avoid this influencing any decisions about the future of the partnership with the Big Deal – including full disclosure of all board members’ interests and strong conflict of interest rules. These rules mean that if the board ever discusses the Big Deal partnership, Henry has to leave the room and doesn’t have a vote.
Henry de Zoete previously worked in government as an advisor to the former Education Secretary Michael Gove. You can read more about Henry’s past career here. The Big Deal has been endorsed by figures across the political spectrum including Lib Dem leader Tim Farron MP and Angus MacNeil, Scottish National Party MP and chair of the Energy Select Committee. 38 Degrees is satisfied that Henry, and The Big Deal, are independent of all political parties.
The Big Deal’s co-founder, Will Hodson, used to work for Ethical Consumer, whom 38 Degrees partnered with previously for our campaign against the “Olympic Tax Dodge”.
Does anyone make money off my switching?
It’s standard practice when a customer switches energy company for the organisation that’s prompted the switch to get paid commission. If 38 Degrees entered into a direct relationship with one energy company, this could be as high as £50 per switch. Working with the Big Deal means that this commission is shared, and 38 Degrees receives £18.75. The Big Deal makes around £18.75 after their costs. When surveyed, 38 Degrees members have said they’re happy for 38 Degrees to receive this money as it can be spent on campaigning and doesn’t come with any strings attached. But we still need to be careful we don’t get dependent on it.
Tell me about previous switches!
38 Degrees members have done two collective switches to other energy companies. They were both about flexing our consumer muscle in a positive way.
The first switch was back in September 2015. 38 Degrees members were at the heart of the decisions made. Members chose what kind of companies to switch to (through member surveys) – whether to prioritise renewable energy, cheap prices or good customer service.
We collectively chose to prioritise clean energy. So when our partners at the Big Deal went away to negotiate a better deal, they came back with the best clean deal they could find. The Big Deal are energy experts who campaign against the Big Six rip-off culture. They fiercely negotiated on our behalf for fair energy deals.
What we ended up with as a result was a collective switch which represented and respected members. And with the added bonus of helping the environment. 12,000 members switched to Good Energy – a smaller company with renewable energy deals.
The second collective switch was in March 2016. This time, 38 Degrees members prioritised going for the cheapest deal we could get. Together we ranked collectively switching away from rip-off energy companies as something we should do together:
So when the Big Deal went away to negotiate with the energy companies, they came back with what was the cheapest deal on the market at the time. We saved on average almost £400 each – some of us saved as high as £700 a year. All because we worked together.
The third switch
The third big switch was in November 2016. Again members prioritied getting the cheapest deal possible. It was also important for there to be a green deal and a deal for households using pre-payment meters.
The Big Deal were able to secure one of the first collective switch prepayment deals as well as the cheapest green energy deal on the market. By coming together to negotiate a better energy deal, people were able to save an average of £242 a year!