Co-operative Energy turns up heat on Government to create impartial comparison service for energy customers
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, is calling for swift action from the Government to set up an independent information and comparison service for energy customers after research* revealed that a staggering 78 per cent of consumers stated that they would use an impartial service instead of a commission based comparison site.
Member-owned Co-operative Energy, which has over 200,000 customers, is calling for the Government to create a public serving, independent information and comparison service that is both impartial and doesn’t mislead the public. The only resource currently available for consumers to compare energy prices, beyond calling each of the energy providers individually, are the switching sites. The switching sites are misleading customers as they’re positioning themselves as a service when in reality they are profit maximising sales organisations, charging the energy companies a disproportionately high commission which they in turn pass on to customers through energy bills.
The results showed that over three quarters (81 per cent) of consumers said that they think commission charges passed on via energy bills are unfair. Almost two thirds of consumers surveyed (60 per cent) stated that the fact comparison sites earn commission from energy suppliers will put them off using comparison sites in future. And many consumers confessed to being in the dark about how switching sites work with nearly half (48 per cent) unaware that they make their profits by charging the energy suppliers a commission per switching customer. 49 per cent think charging a commission is unethical.
The independent research commissioned by Co-operative Energy indicated that over a third (39 per cent) believe there should be no commission charge to pay to the comparison site during the switching process. 30 per cent thought an outlay of under £10 would be a reasonable payment.
Ramsay Dunning, group general manager of Co-operative Energy said: “Our research findings show that consumers are not happy with the current situation and that many feel they are having the wool pulled over their eyes. Establishing a properly regulated, Government-backed alternative to the switching sites represents a further step forward in creating greater transparency across the energy sector. For some time we have been campaigning for an impartial, not-for-profit regulated comparison service as customers are being misled into believing they are being provided with a service showing the best prices, when in reality the switching sites are only providing them with products paying fat commissions.
“We felt it only right to champion the need to create an independent information and comparison service, so the public can be confident of impartial trustworthy information to help choose the best deal available.”
The creation of an official, impartial and free-to-use service will present consumers with all the available tariffs currently on the market and enough relevant supporting information to allow an informed decision to be made on which energy supplier to use, it will also serve to bring energy bills down.
Mr Dunning believes the commercial comparison sites don’t always operate in the best interests of consumers: “Customers have a right to be able to compare energy tariffs and what we have at present is a situation where some online comparison sites are not being transparent in their dealings and are deliberately directing customers only to commission generating tariffs. Comparison sites are misleading customers as they are pointing them towards the tariffs that pay commission rather than displaying the whole range available.
“There is no questioning the convenience of comparison sites but this needs to be impartial and for the benefit of the public rather than designed to generate maximum profits for the site operators. We believe energy customers should be able to look forward to having the convenience of the comparison sites without fear of paying over the odds on their energy bills. Providing fair choice and competition for consumers is what is required and the sooner this becomes reality, the better.”
You may have seen an article in The Times today (27.02.14) which implies that Co-operative Energy is owned by The Co-operative Group. Co-operative Energy is owned by The Midcounties Co-operative, the largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK, and not The Co-operative Group. The two societies operate independently.
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, has become the first energy supplier to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation. The Fair Tax Mark is the world’s first independent accreditation scheme to address the issue of responsible tax and The Midcounties Co-operative, which Co-operative Energy is part of, is one of the first businesses to receive the accreditation.
The Mark, which has been developed by a team of tax justice campaigners and tax experts, shows that a company is making a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place.
The accreditation of the Fair Tax Mark pioneer companies comes at a time when recent polling from the Institute for Business Ethics has found that corporate tax avoidance is now the number one concern of the public when it comes to business conduct. The energy industry has also been embroiled, with the tax practices of a number of Big Six energy providers being called in to question.
Ben Reid, Chief Executive of The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “We launched Co-operative Energy with a pledge to be fair and transparent and to challenge the Big Six to stamp out sharp practices. To be the first energy company in the UK to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation demonstrates our commitment to customers that we’re committed to reforming the industry and that we are a socially responsible energy business, paying our fair share of tax and investing in the UK economy.”
Richard Murphy, a tax justice campaigner and one of the founders of the Fair Tax Mark said: “Around the world and here in the UK people are now aware that many big businesses routinely fail to pay the taxes they really owe. What they now want to do is spend their money with those companies who are doing the right thing by seeking to pay the fair tax that they owe in the right place at the right time.
“The Fair Tax Mark is designed to allow consumers to identify those businesses who are paying their fair share of tax. This makes the Mark the next step in the campaign for tax justice.”
Co-operative Energy is set to harness the power of sports fans with the announcement of a major new sponsorship agreement with Supporters Direct.
Co-operative Energy is to become the Official Energy Partner to Supporters Direct in a two year deal lasting until 2016, with fans set to benefit from simplified, competitive tariffs and Supporters Trusts given access to a profit sharing agreement which will see funds pumped back into Supporter Initiatives.
The agreement will also see Co-operative Energy supporting Supporters Direct’s core work in with Rugby League, Premier League, Football League and Non-League clubs the length of the country, which aims to encourage sustainability and supporter involvement in the game.
In addition to securing a set of commercial rights the partnership deal will see Co-operative Energy working closely with all of the Supporters’ Trusts in England and Wales to promote environmental awareness, in particular energy efficiency, and help communicate some of the practical solutions that will move them to a more sustainable future.
Speaking at the launch of the sponsorship deal, Co-operative Energy General Manager Ramsay Dunning said: “We are looking forward to building a successful relationship with Supporters Direct over the next two seasons. Co-operative Energy has not only been identified for our simplified tariffs but we have been recognised in the industry for our outstanding customer service. We will be bringing this to a new network of supporters up and down the country and we look forward to developing this partnership.
And Commercial Manager at Supporters Direct, Mark Bullock said: “I am delighted to welcome Co-operative Energy as the Official Energy Partner to Supporters Direct. Their involvement is representative of our shared cooperative values and celebrates the success of the supporters trust movement in the U.K.
Their support for our core work is particularly encouraging and the partnership allows Supporters Trusts to generate an important residual income which will reinforce the organisations’ community benefit.
Strengthening the Supporters Trust network is at the top of our agenda and we welcome Cooperative Energy to our growing list of commercial partners in the current season and look forward to a successful relationship.”
Co-operative Energy, which is part of The Midcounties Co-operative, now has 200,000 customers.
Pictured below l to r: Mark Bullock, Supporters Direct Commercial Manager and Ramsay Dunning, Co-operative Energy General Manager
Ramsay Dunning, Co-operative Energy’s group general manager said: “We are delighted to see that the Government’s Community Energy Strategy sets out a significant increase in encouragement and support for the sector. The rapid growth of new, independent generators and suppliers shows that change is well under way. In just two years, Co-operative Energy has acquired over 200,000 customers and we have a real appetite to supply them with more community energy. To date, that has been difficult as there has been so little around, but with this strategy we envisage that changing.”
Ramsay Dunning, Co-operative Energy’s group general manager said: “There is much to applaud in the EU’s announcement today especially the commitment to reduce greenhouse gases across Europe by 40%. However, we think more is needed on renewable energy. The EU’s own impact assessment shows that leadership on renewable energy brings improved energy security, hundreds of thousands of extra jobs and lower energy prices in the long run. Last year, more than half of Co-operative Energy’s electricity supply was derived from renewables, so we know it’s possible for Europe to go further still.”
Following the Retail Marketing Review (RMR) of the energy sector undertaken by our regulator Ofgem and the resulting regulations imposed on us, we won’t be able to offer incentives to Co-operative Energy customers who are not members of Midcounties Co-operative as of 31st December 2013. This is because a customer who is not a member of Midcounties Co-operative does not have a direct democratic link to us.
We appreciate this change will be disappointing news for non-Midcounties Co-operative members and can assure you it didn’t go unchallenged. However, it is a change we have had to make to ensure we meet all our regulatory requirements. It has been agreed that we can honour any points earned up to this date and the appropriate share of profits will be paid to customers in the next payment your existing Co-operative society makes.
We’ve worked with other Co-operative societies to find the best solution for the future. As such, we recommend you keep the existing membership you use for your local services, such as food, travel, childcare etc. Then, to benefit as a Co-operative Energy customer, we recommend you sign up for Midcounties Co-operative membership as well. This means you will be rewarded with points for every pound spent on energy and for meter readings, which in turn entitles you to Midcounties Co-operative half yearly dividends.
Consumers keen to keep their energy bills down can unwrap an early Christmas gift thanks to Co-operative Energy. The energy company committed to putting customers first has today (Monday 23rd December 2013) launched a new 19-month fixed price tariff.
Launched last month, Co-operative Energy’s March 2015 fixed tariff was initially available to 10,000 customers and proved so popular the offer was extended to meet demand. The new tariff has been introduced to ensure more customers can benefit from guaranteed energy prices for a longer period, with bills fixed until 31 July 2015.
The new tariff, which offers an additional four months of fixed energy prices in comparison to its predecessor, is available to existing and new customers and as with Co-operative Energy’s other fixed tariffs, carries no exit penalties.
Customers choosing to switch to the new fixed price tariff will pay an average annual dual fuel bill of £1,204 making it cheaper than the fixed price tariff offered by EDF on its market leading Blue+ Price Promise tariff.
With energy consumers increasingly seeking to lock-in to fixed energy deals in order to safeguard their energy bills, Co-operative Energy’s new and extended fixed price tariff guarantees peace of mind for two winters and beyond.
Ramsay Dunning, group general manager at Co-operative Energy said: “Our customers want flexibility and after being inundated with more than 10,000 new customers switching to our March 2015 fixed tariff in under a month and having to extend the offer to meet demand, we are responding to these needs. Many people may use the Christmas break to look at ways in which they can save money and manage their finances more effectively – switching energy tariffs is a quick and easy way of doing this.
“With this latest fixed tariff we are offering even greater flexibility by replacing our successful March 2015 fixed tariff with one that guarantees a competitive price until summer 2015. The increases we are experiencing in customers switching to fixed energy deals is in direct response to the energy bill rises they’ve faced year-on- year. In launching our competitive new fixed price tariff, for both new and existing customers, this offers greater choice, peace of mind and crucially, a guarantee of no rise in energy bills for the next two winters.”
Since its launch in 2011, Co-operative Energy, which is committed to putting its customers before profits, has been campaigning for energy market reform. It has led the market with a number of initiatives including tariff simplicity and its support for community energy generation.
Other competitive fixed price tariffs are also available until 31st March 2016 and 31st March 2017. For those customers preferring not to go with a fixed tariff, Co-operative Energy also offers a highly competitive variable tariff. To find out more about the Co-operative Energy range of tariffs visit www.cooperativeenergy.co.uk or call 0800 093 7511
New ResPublica project, ‘Unlocking Finance and Investment for Community Energy’, to commence January 2014.
ResPublica is pleased to announce that Co-operative Energy will be lead partners on ResPublica’s forthcoming research project, ‘Unlocking Finance and Investment for Community Energy’, due to commence in January 2014. Additional opportunities to partner with ResPublica on this project and surrounding activity are still open for third party organisations.
The project will explore how untapped capital, financial intermediaries and communities can be harnessed to invest and support community energy. In addition to Government-led initiatives and established financial services, the research will review the potential role of community finance, emerging peer-to-peer and crowd-funding platforms, and joint venture models between communities and the private sector.
Alongside the planning process, one of the major market barriers faced by community and local energy projects is the sourcing of finance and investment. This project will assess where the market failures lie and propose potential solutions to kick-start lending and attract social investment.
Set to commence with a private roundtable discussion in January 2014, the project will run alongside the ongoing policy development of the main political parties as they begin to set out their stalls for the next general election.
Ramsay Dunning, General Manager at Co-operative Energy said: “Co-operative Energy is looking to foster innovative ways to unlock the sources of finance needed to broker the long delayed community energy revolution that this country needs.”
ResPublica and Co-operative Energy are inviting other individuals and partners to feed into and support the forthcoming project. Formal partners can also benefit from participating in, and co-branding, on this activity. For further information, please contact Caroline Julian, Head of Research, at email@example.com.
Fed-up consumers, disillusioned with their energy companies, are demanding that urgent action is taken to break the stranglehold of the Big Six.
New research commissioned by customer-owned energy provider, Co-operative Energy published today reveals that customers think that there is little to choose between the Big Six energy companies and are calling on the Government to step in and take action.
The study found that 70 per cent think all suppliers are the same, two thirds (63 per cent) are fed-up of the dominance of the Big Six and a majority (61 per cent) believe that the principle factor behind recent price rises is the Big Six increasing their profit margins. A staggering 82 per cent want the Government to intervene to create more competition by making it easier for new energy businesses to enter the market. In addition, 86 per cent of the 2,000 respondents want to see all UK energy bought and sold fairly through a single wholesale market.
Ramsay Dunning, Group General Manager at Co-operative Energy said: “This research supports our long held view that six companies dominating the energy market is bad news for UK energy users.
“The Big Six have a stranglehold on both the UK’s energy generation and supply, which makes it difficult for new, independent suppliers to enter the market. Consumers are deeply mistrustful of the industry and switching rates have fallen to woefully low levels.
“We need to ensure that all power is traded through a single wholesale market. Such a development would not only mean markets are working optimally and drive down prices, meaning cheaper bills for consumers, but it would also ensure openness and transparency.”
“UK energy policy is at a crossroads. We either continue to stick with a few large corporates and hope that they treat us fairly, or we engage in wholesale market reform and diversification. Small, independent generators and suppliers are more than up to the challenge – but we need Government to be truly committed to allowing us to compete on fair terms.”
The research also revealed the UK public remains strongly supportive of green policy. Two thirds (61 per cent) want to see coal powered generation phased out as soon as possible and 67 per cent prefer to see a wind turbine near their home rather than a shale gas well. 85 per cent would like to see the Government do more to support community energy.
Since its launch in 2011, Co-operative Energy , which is committed to putting its customers before profits, has been campaigning for energy market reform. It has led the market with a number of initiatives including tariff simplicity and its support for community energy generation. Last week, Co-operative Energy launched a market leading fixed price tariff with no exit penalties.
Co-operative Energy, which is part of The Midcounties Co-operative, now has 160,000 customers.