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Nearly half of consumers sought a better deal following advice session

Frontline workers have been armed with the know-how to help households, many of them in fuel poverty, save money through Energy Best Deal, a campaign launched last year by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, energy regulator Ofgem and national charity Citizens Advice. The campaign equipped frontline workers to give guidance on how to switch supplier or tariff and the range of help available from the Government and energy suppliers for people struggling to pay their energy bills. Consumers also attended the sessions, which were run across England and Wales.

An independent evaluation of the scheme carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Energy and published today found that of the ordinary consumers who attended the sessions:

. Before the session, 15 per cent did not know they could switch their energy supplier. Of those who did know they could switch, nearly a third said they did not know how to do this prior to the session.

. Forty-five per cent went on to look into getting a better deal on their energy. Of these, over two thirds said they found it easy or fairly easy to get information about different tariffs and almost half went on to successfully switch supplier.

. Eight per cent said they would apply for a home improvement grant, 15 per cent said they would check out their entitlement to benefits and tax credits while 12 per cent said they would get advice on paying off their debts.

Energy Best Deal key facts:

. Most people can switch energy supplier, those who have never done so before could save on average between £73 - £91 depending on how they pay their bills and where they live.
. Those who don’t want to switch should make sure they are on their suppliers’ cheapest available tariff.
. Most energy suppliers offer help to customers struggling to pay their energy bills.
. Those on low or fixed incomes may be entitled to a range of benefits including help with home insulation or a new boiler.
. Everyone aged over 60 is entitled to a winter fuel payment (from £125 to £250) and those aged over 80 can get between £200, £275 or £400 depending on their circumstances.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s Senior Partner for Sustainable Development, said: “This evaluation shows the success of Energy Best Deal and the value, especially in these difficult economic times, of spreading the word about the help available to vulnerable customers. For most consumers there is scope to make savings by switching supplier, payment method and taking up energy efficiency measures.”

David Harker, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said: “Citizens Advice Bureaux work daily to assist clients who may be in fuel debt or have other concerns about their energy bills. Enquiries to bureaux about fuel debts were up 53 per cent when comparing the three months to the end of June 2009 with the same period last year. This reinforces how necessary partnerships such as Energy Best Deal are. The most vulnerable customers may not have internet access, need help using a telephone or simply find the process of switching or applying for help daunting. Face-to-face advice really makes a difference and ensures that clients know how to save on their fuel costs.”

Notes to editors

1. Energy Best Deal builds on the research under Ofgem’s Consumer First Programme which showed that many vulnerable customers needed:

. more information and guidance about tariff and payment options;
. access to grants to install insulation and central heating;
. ways to manage bills through energy efficiency.

2. The national roll out of the campaign across England and Wales was funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and supported by Ofgem, following a successful pilot phase funded by Ofgem.

3. The evaluation was drawn from questionnaires completed after the presentations by 619 householders and 868 frontline workers. Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of 80 householders and 20 frontline workers. The full evaluation report and more information on Energy Best Deal is available: http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Pages/MoreInformation.aspx?docid=131&refer=SUSTAINABILITY/SOCACTION/PUBLICATIONS 

The Citizens Advice service is a network of independent charities that helps people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see www.citizensadvice.org.uk 

4. Ofgem is the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, which supports the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, the regulator of the gas and electricity industries in Great Britain. The Authority's powers and duties are largely provided for in statute, principally the Gas Act 1986, the Electricity Act 1989, the Utilities Act 2000, the Competition Act 1998, the Enterprise Act 2002, the Energy Act 2004 as well as arising from directly effective European Community legislation.

For further press information contact

Citizens Advice: Faye Jordan 020 7812 5481 / 07843 301 594

Ofgem: Alison Wright 0207 901 7217 / 07771 980297

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