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Calls for Competition and Markets Authority Energy Investigation

Which? and the Federation of Small Businesses

Unlikely bedfellows Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which? the consumer watchdog turned price comparison website and the Federation of Small Businesses, have called for the Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the Big 6 energy companies to go ahead, claiming that 90% of consumers would support the move.

In their joint letters they say:

“Top of our concerns is the need to increase competition and make trading transparent. For too long the lack of competition in the energy market has not been addressed. It is now time for radical changes that deliver an effective, competitive market that delivers for everyone, before the scale of this crisis grows.”

Given the FSB’s open distrust of TPIs, demonstrated in full volume through last year’s SME Energy Working Group at Number 10 Downing Street, it is a surprise to see lack of competition being a concern. Indeed they’re stated preference was for published tariffs, limited to few in number, restricting choice, but with the intent of simplifying the market for ‘vulnerable’ businesses.

This didn’t sound like good policy or advice at the time and it still doesn’t now, artificially reducing choice will simply lead to a lowest common denominator product at the highest possible price. Simple but very expensive.

Which? who were not a member of the working group have had a very busy 18 months with Richard Lloyd at the helm, taking the venerable business based in sumptuous Regents Park offices squarely into the commercial world of price comparison websites and seemingly monetizing any and every household and business transaction possible.

Whilst we have tongue firmly planted in cheek here there is a serious point, we wouldn’t wish to criticize a business for making money and being successful as long as they are doing so within the bounds of the law and in an ethically acceptable manner. It is for that reason that we are uncomfortable with the stance and public pronouncements of the likes of the FSB and Which? At what point does objectivity become polluted by subjectivity. Not wishing to call either terrorists but you know the old saying about freedom fighter / terrorist.

Perhaps that’s our problem, maybe we’re old fashioned, perhaps we prefer to pursue genuine, constructive improvements and support progress however slow, or small the steps may be.

We at Business Juice have been at the forefront of change in the business energy market and have no intent to cease our activities even though we have experienced much success of late:

  • The ending of roll over contracts under the Big 6
  • The publishing of contract end dates on invoices
  • The limitation on back billing.

Each of these are limited but critical steps to create a more transparent and fair market for business energy customers. And we don’t forget or try to hide our day job, we are an energy broker, or in modern parlance a TPI, we earn money by making sense of the business energy market for our clients by securing better deals on their energy contracts through advice, support and action.

That sure beats hypocritical table banging to boost our coffers. We prefer to do our lobbying in private, (although we will always willingly disclose what we say and believe), and we do it for the right reasons (even if that doesn’t chime perfectly with our commercial needs) and we always approach it with an open mind to consider all possibilities to make this a better energy market for all UK businesses, including the suppliers, trade organisations and price comparison websites.

If the competition commission investigation does go ahead here’s hoping a few others take a thorough stock of their roles in the market.

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