This was the key message from Ed Davey, British energy minister to the annual conference of Energy UK – the trade association which represents, among others, Britain’s Big Six energy suppliers – in London.
He said a plethora of regulator fines for misleading sales and advertising gimmicks, coupled with inflation-busting price rises had resulted in the energy ‘six pack’ – which includes Scottish Power and Perth-based Scottish & Southern Energy – suffering from a commercial haemorrhage of customers.
Independent industry analysis by Cornwall Energy indicates that market penetration by the independent suppliers in the dual fuel market has boomed to 9% – the highest since competition began in the late 1990s – and that the Big Six have lost 5% of the market over the last year alone.
He said: “Trust between those who supply energy and those who use it had been breaking down – and is yet to be mended.
“Fair or not to particular energy firms, the spotlight of scrutiny that larger energy suppliers have been under in recent times has not always been kind – either on the service that consumers are receiving or on the prices they are paying for their energy.
“Therefore, I am pleased that many of you are recognising the urgency of your challenge – the need to regain the trust of the public – your customers – to improve the service they are getting, to keep prices as low as possible and to be open and transparent.
“Since the beginning of the year, there have been no new price rise announcements from the Big 6 suppliers – reflecting the efforts the Government has made to reduce policy costs and reflecting increased competition.
“With switching now becoming easier and faster, consumers are increasingly seeking out the best deals and better customer service. The industry has, in particular, responded to my calls for faster switching times – and all the big players are on track to have halved their switching times by the end of this year. Good.”
Independent suppliers now have more than two million customers and are regularly topping the best buy tables.
And Davey added: “Clearly, the electricity market competition that this Government has championed was clearly needed – and it is working and it is beginning to bite – meaning better deals, better service, and lower prices.”