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Join the Big Switch and prove that people power works

Lots of hands joining together

We’ve joined forces with others on our latest campaign to get people a fairer deal on their energy bills. Here, TV reporter Jonathan Maitland explains why he’s involved in the Big Switch – and how you can be too.

I’m a television reporter. It’s a great job but there are downsides. For one, it gets repetitive.

One story that keeps coming back is energy bills. For nearly a quarter of a century I have covered the same theme: people are struggling to pay their bills and the tariffs are too numerous and complex.

In 2010, after my 23rd attempt at the story, I decided to stop singing the same old song and write a new one. Why report rather helplessly from the outside when, as a (reasonably) influential media practitioner, I could actually try and do something about it?

My idea was simple and, I modestly thought, brilliant. Why not get everyone (i.e. millions of us) together, and bargain collectively with the energy companies for lower bills? After all, it’s what the internet was made for.

The different arms of the Big Switch

I went to see Which? and hey presto, I realised I wasn’t so brilliant after all – they had been thinking of much the same thing. So we decided to work together.

They also suggested I see the people from 38 Degrees, a new-fangled social lobbying people power website thing, whose members number – amazingly – one million. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of them. But then I am 50 – and way more out of touch than I had realised.

38 Degrees, it turns out, were like minded. I was pushing at a door that was already half way open. Encouragingly, the people I was pushing with were just the sort you want when the door gets a little stiff.

Which?, you won’t need me to tell you, is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country and 38 Degrees, despite being the new kid on the block, already has notable successes. Last year, in the space of just a week, they got the government to reverse its policy of selling off our woodlands.

Why you should sign up to the Big Switch

So here we are – a combo of old and young, new and old media, attempting to do something rather exciting. We want to take back some of the power that is rightfully ours, and pay less for our energy. Which begs the question: how come we are paying so much in the first place?

For a start, energy as a raw material is more expensive. We can’t blame the energy companies for that. But there is something else. Once, energy companies were run for the benefit of the customers – us. They may have been unwieldy and inefficient, but they were ours.

Not any more. These days, they are not run for our benefit, but for the shareholders’. Their raison d’être is to make people rich, hence the six billion annual profits made by British Gas and its parent company.

It’s not illegal to generate that kind of wealth, of course, but it does seem a little excessive when some of us are freezing to death because of worries over heating bills. The time has come to do something: so please sign up. Now.

We’ll be taking registrations for our Big Switch until 31 March, and we want to gather a huge crowd. When registration closes we’ll go to the energy companies and Which? will use the people power we’ve amassed to negotiate the best energy deal it can get. If we can secure a great energy deal, we’ll send details of it to those people who signed up and they then get to choose whether to take it.

So if you want to find out what people power can really do, join us in the Big Switch.

George says:
11 February 2012

The reason that, on average, you can save a lot by switching supplier is that lots of people who can’t organise themselves to switch have been left on old expensive tariffs. Not only those without internet – but those who are old, or who just find it too difficult – the ones who don’t or can’t challenge the charges, they are the ones who most need cheaper energy. Another pressure group trying to get a special deal for its own members will only make things worse for the others.

Can we have a pressure group of people who have already reduced their own bills as far as possible and now want to reduce the tariffs for everyone else?

Dave Compton says:
11 February 2012

This is going to take time to implement – meanwhile, what has happened to the ‘Switch with Which?’ area of the web site. I acnnot find it now.


Hi Dave – it’s still there, http://www.which.co.uk/switch/ !

Colin, Basingstoke says:
11 February 2012

Many of the ‘cheapest’ deals out there currently include switching penalties to discourage us from changing when they increase their tariffs again.
If the negotiated best deal includes switching penalties, then I for one, won’t be interested.

sue, bristol says:
11 February 2012

we would all like to pay less for our energy, and undoubtedly providers charge as much as the market will bear, but my concern is the source of our energy. I have recently switched to Good Energy, 100% renewable, and not the cheapest. I am deeply concerned about how energy is generated, particularly, nuclear which I find indefensible. It deeply disturbs me that the focus is cheap energy, not sustainable.


Hi Sue, it’s clear that different factors are important for different people in choosing an energy supplier – we’ve had lots of chat before on Convo about different energy suppliers, with some expressing the same opinion as you that they’d prefer to choose based on green credentials rather than purely cost. Because these factors are important, we’ll be giving people the choice about whether they switch or not once a deal is offered. If you’re not keen on the tariff, you can decline the switch. In the meantime, if you’d like more info on green tariffs, etc, we’ve got more info here: http://www.which.co.uk/switch/energy-advice/green-energy-tariffs

David - London E3 says:
12 February 2012

The old sources of energy are running out. The costs will continue to rise from now on. That’s why the energy cartels are making the most of what we pay now rather than investing more in renewables.
Solar, wave and wind power would provide for all our energy needs at decreasing cost- if energy companies and governments would only invest.
But, Government only looks to the next election, and companies only look to the next bonus or dividend.
The companies have huge lobbying power on feeble and compliciit government.
So, let’s take them on!
More Power to Our Elbow! Sign Up!

Colin, Basingstoke says:
12 February 2012

“Solar, wave and wind power would provide for all our energy needs…” I wish that were true – but is it? They are all unreliable at best, and some would argue that they can never come close to supplying our base load – but maybe those people are all exponents of nuclear and fossil fuels. How about Which? doing some solid, unbiased research?
The only reliable sources of renewable energy I am aware of, are hydro (not enough in the UK), and tidal, which is staunchly opposed by wildlife protection groups.

Dermot in Derbyshire says:
12 February 2012

Hi Nikki

I have also e-mailed many of my friends with details of the big switch but a common theme is that they are locked in to deals which contain a penalty should they decide to switch. Can you tell me if there are any plans to see if any new energy supplier would cover such penalties otherwise many would, I suspect, stay with their current supplier and possibly not even register an interest.

I appreciate that in signing up you are only registering an interest but as I say one or two have told me – great idea but tied in. I myself come to the end of a tie in at the end of this month and am reluctant to sign up to a cheap deal due to a tie in as I may want to switch if your campaign does indeed show true savings. I am however due to go on a standard tariff from 1 March which pains me!