Of course, the answer’s no, but you’d be hard-pressed not to ask such a question after its press release yesterday. The official consumer group that has taken over from Energywatch has singularly FAILED in its first big test. Why Energywatch, one of the few official consumer bodies that actually had teeth, has been replaced by this flaccid beast is anyone’s guess.
Frankly I was flabbergasted when I read its press release on British Gas’ rather paltry 10% gas price cut (and no electricity cut). Sit back and read this:
From Consumer Focus’ press release:
“At last, we have an energy company that the public can be proud of. British Gas today has had the courage to do the right thing as wholesale prices tumble. We have long been critical of the way in which the six energy companies act as a herd, giving consumers little real choice. Now, we have a choice.
“We have led the campaign on energy prices since starting last October. We will now turn the heat up on the other five companies that are keeping prices sky high.
“We would caution that tariffs are complex, British Gas hasn’t always been the cheapest and consumers need to check that they will get a better deal from this price cut. But if they will, our call is for consumers to switch to British Gas, not just because they would be cheaper but because they are doing the right thing.”
What kind of consumer champion are they?
Energywatch used to have teeth. Most other commentators, including me, have rightly said “it’s too little, too late”. Yet to applaud British Gas for this is shameful.
Frankly British Gas’ cut is so poor it may’ve let other companies off the hook of bringing their prices down. I’m simply stunned. Even with the cut, its standard tariff is only £3 a YEAR cheaper than NPower’s existing tariff.
And it ACTUALLY tells people to switch to it.
The worst bit for me is the phrase, “consumers need to check that they will get a better deal from this price cut. But if they will, our call is for consumers to switch to British Gas, not just because they would be cheaper but because they are doing the right thing.”
This is wrong on two points. Firstly, as explained in the Cheap Gas & Electricity guide, the likelihood is that other companies will follow suit, therefore by switching now, you run the risk of ditching a provider that will be the cheapest in a month or so. Plus the tariff hasn’t been launched yet, so it isn’t on comparison sites to compare.
And even if that doesn’t happen, this cut is so low, it’s worth sticking with your current provider while you wait and see.
Worst of all is the “doing the right thing line”. I read this as a political point to try and make other providers cut prices, by threatening them with lack of custom if they don’t. Yet is it really trying to use people’s bills to play politics.
Come back Energywatch … please.