Guest Blog: Will from The Big Deal on U-switch news

This is a guest blog by Will Hodson at the Big Deal. The views expressed in this blog do not represent the view of 38 Degrees. The Big Deal specialises in collective energy switching and their campaigns have demanded fair prices from suppliers, transparency from comparison sites and negotiated money-saving deals. 38 Degrees and the Big Deal have run campaigns together to offer 38 Degrees members cheaper, cleaner energy deals – keep an eye out for future ones!

Honest advice should not be too much to expect. And yet in the energy market that precious commodity is in short supply.

This week, Britain’s biggest energy price comparison, uSwitch, was slammed for hiding the cheapest deals from its users. The reason those deals were hidden? They didn’t earn uSwitch a kickback. So they wouldn’t let people even consider them.

It’s an odd twist in that old energy story of abuse and exploitation. The villains of this story are so often the energy suppliers. In contrast, comparison sites present themselves as ‘consumer champions’. They spend millions of pounds on adverts to perpetuate this image, inflicting monstrosities on the British public such as Gio Compario (voted Britain’s most annoying ad), and callipygian Dave with his ‘epic strut’ (Britain’s most complained about ad).

Britain was shocked in 2014 to find all the big comparison sites were deliberately hiding the cheapest energy deals. uSwitch (yes, they have previous), Moneysupermarket, GoCompare, CompareTheMarket and Confused claimed to see the error of their ways, and started showing all deals once more. To date, only uSwitch have broken ranks and returned to this practice. But we should brace ourselves for others to follow suit.

So if energy suppliers are trying to rip us off, and comparison sites refuse to show us the cheapest offers, the question is: who can we trust?

Together with 38 Degrees, The Big Deal works hard to give people the best conditions in which to switch their energy.

First, 38 Degrees members use their huge numbers to come together and use people power to negotiate special deals especially for them. These deals have frequently been better than anything on uSwitch.

Second, 38 Degrees members who switch with us have always been able compare their special offer with every other deal in the market. For us, that’s how you earn, and keep, trust.

Time and time again, we have seen 38 Degrees members support the suppliers whose values they share, rather than just switching to the cheapest offer. It’s bizarre that other companies would not allow their users to make a similarly well-informed decision.

This hints at a broader issue – maybe price comparison has become a cynical, uninnovative place, just like energy supply.

Everyone knows that Britain’s energy supply is in the grip of six staid giants – the ‘Big Six’. Yet people don’t realise that a few giant companies have a similar stranglehold on price comparison. uSwitch operate over 50% of the energy switches that go through these sites. That is a dominance that even British Gas cannot match.

In business, such dominance lends itself to stagnation, with jaded execs squeezing the margins of their creaking business model. There is no need to innovate, no need to deliver a better service for consumers, if the market works very well for your shareholders as it is.

That’s where 38 Degrees and The Big Deal come in.

Together, we have tried to blaze a trail. In 2015, we launched Britain’s first mass switch to clean energy. We used people power to make that energy affordable as well as sustainable. People said it couldn’t be done – and we proved them all wrong. In 2016, we moved huge numbers of first-time switchers away from the Big Six and towards a more progressive supplier. People said only the Big Six could handle mass switches – and we proved them all wrong.

We shall continue to use people power to deliver for 38 Degrees members – it’s in the DNA of our organisations. But we want to do more more.

Together with 38 Degrees we are putting customers first, in an industry that so often takes us for granted.

We’ll keep our honest approach. We’ll keep listening to our members. We’ll keep fighting the companies taking them for a ride.

And together with 38 Degrees, we’ll keep innovating, until we have a fairer energy market for all.

-Will Hodson, the Big Deal