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14 responses to “Why do people switch energy supplier?”

    • Sophie Davies

      Great article – it’s good to compare the complaints received by all energy companies in an equal way, I think you’re right that customer service is a big reason for people switching supplier. I’m really interested in the statistic that only 20% of people use price comparison websites when switching, where does that come from?

        • Dale Vince

          Hi Sophie, that stat originates with consumer group Which?. They quote that only 18% of people use price comparison sites, we rounded to 20.


    • Simon Read

      Yuo need to take into account what drives complaints. The primary driver is transferring supplier which is why so many people only switch once and then never again.

      2 of the biggest growths in customer base this year have been EdF (who’ve regularly topped the best buy tables) and Ovo Energy(who’ve more than doubled in size). The fact that Ovo have reduced their complaints per 1000 is a massive testament to them. Industry data is so poor so on switch is pretty much the only time that faults are found leaving new suppliers with a lot to do. Suppliers who only have new customers (like Ovo, Co-Op or F:U) will have poor complaints stats as the majority of their customers have transferred recently whereas the big 6 have a stable customer base on the whole.

      Ecotricity has pretty much no customer churn as they rarely pick up new business as their so much pricier than other green deals. Their customers like their totally green ideals and stick with them, but they have their niche and they’ve pretty much got them all. No transfers – no complaints. Simples!

      In short, there are lie, damned lies and stats… Complaints figures are not a driver for customer satisfaction if compared in this way.

        • Dale Vince

          Hi Simon, While I agree with you that switching energy supplier is a big cause of problems, it’s not the biggest in our experience and I think you’re presenting an excuse here for bad service. By OVO mainly it would appear.

          You say that ecotricity has no churn and no customer growth – both of these claims are untrue. In the last year we grew our customer base by 30%, that’s hardly no growth – or ‘rarely picking up new business’ – to quote you.

          By your logic ecotricity should not be able to outperform the stable big six on the complaints front – but we did by an order of magnitude.

          Lastly, in the interests of an open debate – why don’t you declare your interest – the company you work for? Could it be OVO……… 🙂


            • Simon


              I used to work for SSE and have seen how the ways this industry portrays companies and the spin that it uses. I note that SSE’s recent endeavours to be seen better haven’t had the industry clamouring to join in but smaller suppliers have been encouraged by their comments.

              Ovo strike me as a competitor to you as a greener supplier so it seems a easy way to paint yourself in a better light. Good Energy as the other major small supplier (!) with Green ideals have reasonable stats. I apologise for my comments about growth – congrats on that, hope you keep it up. More green customers forces more green generation.

              The industry frustrated me to the point of leaving. The lack of clear & effective green polices (I like your Ecobonds tho!) and inabitlity to make changes. The change to the complaints handling process in ’08 was a case in point. I thought it was pretty clear but as your blog proves, it isn’t – can’t find the data easily and no consistency on what it is a complaint. Some don’t even bother pusblishing on time. I thought that was fineable?

              Good luck with it all and all the best to your smaller suppliers. I hope you’ll continue to shake things up making the Big 6 follow your lead, as it appears SSE have done.

    • Paul Verbinnen

      Hi Dale,

      Working on your figures and an assumption of 2 of the big 6, I estimate that your company had 26 complaints against 44,300 for EDF and 89,450 for Scottish Power.

      Whilst it is not possible to determine competence, people need to realise that the corresponding size of a complaints department has to be added onto the consumers’ bill.

      Congratulations to your team.

        • Dale Vince

          Thanks Paul,

          With respect to issues of scale – we believe that if it can be made to work at a small scale, economically – then it can be made to work at a big scale.

          There seems to be no reason why not, in our experience.

          The key is the have the systems and process (and people) to avoid problems, learn from mistakes and evolve – and fix problems fast. Once you have that, scale is no challenge – in fact it can bring economies.


    • Christopher Blount

      I just wanted to offer my congratulations for these figures and for your other achievements such as the re-launch of Ecobonds – a fantastic initiative which surely appeals to left & right or investor & hippy. 🙂

      I think the numeric transparency of a company goes a long way to reducing complaints actually. I have been a satisfied customer for a few years now, and I know the reinvestment figures are what I focus on. Particularly at a time when government and other providers are largely sitting on the sidelines. Personally I would like to see every company/product issuing this kind of data. When I buy food, there’s a white box detailing all the nutritional breakdown. Why can’t there be one detailing how the company treat their staff, their suppliers, the environment, pay their taxes (or not), lobby governments, spend profits etc. ?

      Maybe you could do some kind of comparison table for Ecobonds and other investments. I just recently found out that my bank likes to dabble in weaponry <:-/

    • tony milne

      a great victory for choice – the only weapon consumers have. Whether it’s banks, phone companies or electricity providers, poor service only rarely results in churn – the difficulties of changing supplier already referred to are real enough; but every ten years or so I change.
      I’ve not had any problems with EDF in their home country, except that as my wife pays the bill, I am often not recognised as being a legal resident – in France, the EDF bill is the official proof of residence. There is no choice of supplier; no ecotricity; no choice of electricity source; no ofgem.
      Without deregulation, but with cheap nuclear energy (and bombs), and a single supplier it is possible to have good service.
      perhaps the problem in UK is just that in order to be more competitive, all these different generators, shifters and retailers with little differentiation are having to cut corners.

    • Anne

      Not appropriate for publication.

      Need to contact you re Ecotricity service – I switched over a year ago.

      By post best as need to enclose papers.

      This in the interest of the company.

    • Rod

      According to figures published by Ovo, they had 652 complaints from a customer base of 63,000 in 2011. I make that 10.35 complaints per 1,000 customers compared to 13.4 per 1,000 in your table.

      Have I missed something or is that a typo?

    • Rod

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your response but from the Ovo website

      “In line with the OFGEM Complaint Handling Standards, Ovo will publish annually the number of complaints we received that could not be resolved by the end of the following working day. Between 1st October 2010 and 30th September 2011 Ovo received 652 complaints which fell into this category. It has been a very busy year for Ovo during which we were pleased to serve over 63,000 customers. . . In addition, during this period, we had just 7 complaints referred to us by the Energy Ombudsman”

      Which seems to be at odds with your explanation. It’s not really a major issue except to clarify whether energy suppliers are generally honest in their complaints reporting.

        • paul

          Hi Rod,

          Thanks. Here’s a further response from our researcher:

          “As I explained previously, the customer number was the best available at the time. We provided the Daily Mail with the correct info, so I’d be surprised if Ovo didn’t. I’ll admit that the customer figures for Ovo are a bit of a mystery. If you look at the most recent copy of Which? magazine where they replicate our customer complaints league table method you’ll find that according to their figures Ovo must have around 90,000 customers (incidentally, we come top of the Which? version too).

          I’m happy to amend our numbers if someone from Ovo contacts us and can confirm how many energy customers they had at the end of September 2011 – the Mail figure, their website figure or the Which? figure.”

          Hope that helps clarify further? I do wonder if the “pleased to serve over 63,000 customers” includes losses or refers to a calendar year or something? That might help explain the confusion…

          BTW – we update our customer numbers publicly on our homepage weekly, so if anyone else wanted to do the same thing for us – they’d have no trouble 🙂