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Can Co-operative shake up the energy market?

Number six in flames

The Co-operative launches its new energy business today, and it’s making lots of noise about how different it will be to the ‘Big Six’. So can it really excel where the others have failed – and would you consider switching?

Imagine that the energy market is one big party. In the kitchen, you’ll find the Big Six energy suppliers. The smaller suppliers try to squeeze through to grab the odd bit of food, but in reality it’s very difficult to muscle past.

Occasionally the government will try to keep the big suppliers in check by saying ‘you must share!’, but really the Big Six stay firmly in the kitchen and have a great old time. Nothing changes. Except when someone new turns up.

A new chapter for energy suppliers?

Now you must excuse me for going on about parties. My two children have birthdays within the next two weeks so I’m obsessed with planning birthday celebrations. But when Co-op announced it was becoming a new energy provider, its message to the Big Six was clear – stop hogging the party!

The Co-op’s new energy business launch will certainly be music to some consumers’ ears. It will be different to the other big suppliers, it says. It will have one simple price and no confusing tariffs.

Its press release says that it has thrown down the gauntlet to the Big Six. It has told the rest of the industry to play fair and it’s saying that this sector needs a radical shake up. It’s also saying it wants to be environmentally friendly, ethical and it will be owned by its members (or customers).

Come on Co-op, ruin the party

I’m sure that the rest of industry will be watching with interest. Some will be grumbling that if Co-operative Energy grows big enough it will probably just resort to the same tactics as the other big suppliers who regularly deliver poor results in our customer satisfaction surveys.

So that’s why Which? has issued a challenge to the Co-operative: Welcome to the party Co-op, and our challenge to you is to prove you’re different and shake up this market. Go ahead and be a party pooper and get in that kitchen to help energy customers get a better deal.


I think the overall ethos of the Coop bodes well for the new venture. The only reason I don’t buy from the Coop now is because there are no branches available near me,

I like the idea the Coop has no shareholders – and works for it’s members. I wait in anticipation and look forward to joining if possible

Good Energy says:
11 May 2011

Good Energy welcomes the growth of competition in the electricity market because we think it is beneficial to consumers. Like the Co-op we also believe in having one simple primary tariff that is easier for customers to understand. We are effectively owned by our customers because 90% of our shareholders are also our customers, and they are able to share in our profits through receiving dividend payments. The biggest difference is in fuel mix – we’re pleased that the Co-op is aspiring to be greener, but Good Energy has always been 100% renewable. No carbon, no nuclear, no compromise.

pickle says:
11 May 2011

Sounds interesting – I look forward to receiving further details….

The large number of tariffs ( all with very similar names to make comparison even more difficult) offered by the main Energy Companies is down to short term marketing initiatives – just like the large number of savings accounts offered by banks & BS.
Many of these are no longer available to new customers and existing customers often cannot transfer to current better tariffs .
So much for real choice.
The main point in favour of the Coop is that it is a cooperative and therefore not trying to make money for its shareholders – it would be better if Coop Energy aimed to be profit neutral for it Energy customers .
What would shake up the market is a tariff linked to Wholesale energy prices – a tracker system similar to that offered for mortgages.

I think this is very good news indeed. The Coop has come on by leaps and bounds lately and I really like their fair, honest and sensible approach to things. I like the idea of a simple basic tariff for all consumption. Something that has concerned me for some time with stepped or tapered tariffs is that they depend heavily on accurate actual meter readings at the quarterly billing date to avoid paying an excess on the higher rate – the consumption figures go back to base level each quarter; has Which? ever looked at this?
Personally I would trust the Coop to stand by its promise and honour its commitments – after all its reputation depends on it more than the other companies who do not pretend to be ethical [well, they do but we can see straight through it because they’ve let us down in the past!]. There was a notice in our local Coop foodstore today apologising for a printing error in their weekly discount promotioal flyer that misquoted the weight of a product, even so it was still a jolly good deal – when did any of the other supermarkets apologise prominently for a misleading description? I shall start making enquiries immediately about Coop Energy.

Antrich says:
17 May 2011

Far too many MPs’ have interests in the Energy Companies and we don’t, therefore, benefit from any of the current Energy Providors. I, personally, think that Co-op could provide a better service and a cheaper service, and quite probably a more efficient service. The current Energy Providors do not deserve our custom.