Independents must encourage customers to look at more than price

Independent energy suppliers should encourage customers to “be curious” about their values, and consider more than just the price when they switch.

“The market conditions are still challenging but I think we need to encourage customers to be curious about their provider and understand their ethos and values,” said Bristol Energy managing director Peter Haigh told Utility Week.

“It is not just about price. Anyone that offers more than just price, for example green energy or social values, must have a stronger resonance with the customer. If they sell purely on the basis that they are cheap, that probably reflects on the organisation as a whole.

“We have always said that Bristol Energy would strive to be fair and competitive but with that comes a responsibility and not just to be the cheapest for the sake of it.

“When we looked at the prices that were being offered over the summer and into the autumn we shook our heads – they were so cheap, and that wasn’t just GB Energy Supply.”

The comments follow the news that GB Energy Supply has ceased trading, blaming rising wholesale prices.

Haigh said that, in order to be a “responsible retailer”, independents must put in place trading capabilities and the ability to hedge, as current wholesale prices are causing concern for a number of suppliers.

GB Energy Supply going bust will “certainly not help consumers trust of independents”, he added. But Bristol Energy is “keen to highlight and reassure the public and industry that it is different from others in the market place”.

Ofgem’s move towards principle based regulation could support independents, as it forces suppliers to think about how they engage with their customers, Haigh added.