Time to switch? The government thinks so… and it’s going to help you to do it
(05/12/15) New ‘switching principles’ set out clear guidelines to help consumers switch over their key utility services
The government plans to make switching key services easier, and they’re asking the whole country to get involved with the consultation by Sharing their own experiences of switching (which you can do here, by the way: http://bit.ly/SwitchingStories).
But why is the government doing this? Well, it seems that 11 million households in the UK could be saving up to £2.2billion if only they made canny switches to the right utility services. And yet in 2014 just 12% of customers switched their electricity or gas services, while a scant 3% of bank account holders changed over.
In fact, the same Government Research shows that currently more than three quarters of UK consumers have never switched their mobile phone provider and more than two thirds have never changed their broadband supplier.
So we thought we’d go into a bit more detail about the new guidelines...
The government view
Business Minister Nick Boles says: “By setting out clear principles for switching suppliers, this Government will make it simpler and easier for consumers to shop around for the best deals.
“All too often families miss out on hundreds of pounds of potential savings because they think it will be too complicated or take too long to switch.
“Consumers have a key role to play in driving firms to be more competitive.”
So what are the switching principles?
The idea behind these is to set some standards that you can expect companies to stick to if you seek to switch. Essentially they are (or will be)…
- Switching should be free to the consumer unless they are aware of and have consented to reasonable restrictions and charges to do so.
- The switching process itself should be quick, at an agreed date.
- The switching process should be led by the organisation with most interest in making the switching process work effectively – the gaining provider.
- Consumers should have access to their consumption or transaction data. This should be in a format that can be easily reused (e.g. Midata) and they should be able to authorise third parties such as comparison sites to access their data to help them to switch.
- Sites and tools providing comparisons to consumers that receive payments from suppliers should make clear where this affects the presentation of results.
- There should be an effective process for consumers to get redress if anything goes wrong in the switching process.
Which is all well and good, but just how is the government going to implement all this? Well, that’s not especially clear at the moment. All we know (and I quote the press release from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills here) is that:
“Using the stories and experiences of consumers across the country, the Government will work with regulators and industry to agree specific actions which are needed to implement the principles fully and make the switching process as straightforward as possible for consumers.”
Sounds promising enough, but we can’t see any concrete plans in that sentence, so I’m reserving judgment on the ‘switching principles’ idea until we hear a little bit more in the way of firm action plans.
What that does mean is that the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ is key in helping shape the future of the switching landscape, and will combine your views with those of switching providers with the aim of creating an industry standard across the energy, telecoms and current account banking sectors. Which sounds good to us… so get your voice heard!