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Retail Energy Market: Switching

Volume 613: debated on Thursday 14 July 2016

10. What assessment she has made of recent trends in the rate of switching in the retail energy market. (905858)

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that switching was at a four-year high in 2015, with 6.1 million electricity and gas switches across the UK. That is an increase of about 15% since 2014. Some 2 million further gas and electricity switches have already taken place between January and March of this year, with 52% of those customers moving to newer suppliers.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government are specifically ensuring that those who are in most need or who are financially challenged, including those in my constituency and across the UK who are in need of lower energy bills, are benefiting from an efficient and easier switching regime?

Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government are acting to do just that. In fact, customers on expensive standard tariffs could save £325 by switching to the cheapest fixed deal, which is why we continue to encourage customers to switch through our big energy saving network initiative.

When trying to compare tariffs, most of them remain incomprehensible, which particularly affects my most vulnerable constituents, including the elderly, the disabled and those with mental health issues. What measures will the Minister take specifically to support the most vulnerable?

The hon. Lady is exactly right that this is a very important area. I reiterate that over the past three years the big energy saving network has reached about 350,000 vulnerable consumers, helping them to reduce their bills by switching. Last year we ran a successful national TV and press advertising campaign, Power to Switch, and more than £38 million was saved by 130,000 households switching energy supplier. We continue to support good organisations such as Citizens Advice, which often hosts such initiatives and works face to face with vulnerable consumers to help them with the process of switching. I urge people who are struggling with fuel bills to give it a try; it really is not too difficult.