This week the energy select committee took evidence from five comparison sites about energy switching, and in plain parlance, they gave them a kicking.
While it made interesting watching on the BBC Parliament channel, I’m slightly concerned that it may unwittingly end up doing more harm than good – as you’ll see explained in my letter below.
Go to an energy provider, and if you’re lucky and you ask about the price, it may switch you to its best tariff. Go to a comparison site and it should tell you about the whole of the market tariffs – yet even those who gemmy at the edges are still better than energy providers. And the best ones are actually a very strong service. I know how many of you have saved via our Cheap Energy Club.
So here’s the letter I’m sending to the chair of the committee.
Tim Yeo MP
6 February 2015
Dear Mr Yeo,
After watching the evidence session on energy price comparison websites earlier this week, I am writing to express my concern. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the UK’s biggest consumer help site, MoneySavingExpert.com, which has 14 million users a month and 1.4 million members of its Cheap Energy Club, which incorporates a price comparison service.
I fully support the work of the committee to look at the role of energy price comparison websites and how they operate. The points made by the committee about practices which are against consumers’ interests are valid and valuable. Yet many of the statements by members made blanket remarks about ‘comparison services’ – it is crucial to remember the comparison sites interviewed were specifically selected because they were those whose default setting is not to show all tariffs.
To tar all with the same brush is unfair and risks creating a misleading impression. Our service is transparent…
The understandably robust adversarial nature of the questioning meant many key points about the sector were missed and I am concerned members may infer the wrong conclusions about what changes are needed, and the potential value of these services as a result.
We would ask that evidence is taken on the positive aspects of comparison services in order to encourage switching – which is much needed – and that it be given equal prominence to the session earlier this week via an oral evidence session. My concern is that by not doing so, we risk disincentivising people from switching and playing into the energy firms’ hands.