The energy regulator has put back plans to introduce a 'switching database', which would allow suppliers to contact rival firms' customers on the most expensive standard variable energy tariffs and offer them a cheaper deal.

Ofgem says the planned April 2018 rollout date has now been postponed - and it hasn't given a date for when the scheme will eventually be introduced.

The decision to postpone the planned database, first proposed by the Competition and Markets Authority last year after its investigation into the energy market, comes after Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to cap energy prices if the Conservative party is re-elected.

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How the switching database was supposed to work

Under the CMA's original proposals, energy firms would have to give Ofgem details of all customers who have been on their standard tariff for more than three years. These would then be put into a database through which different rival suppliers could contact customers to offer cheaper deals.

Customers worried about being spammed would be able to opt out of being contacted by post, and would have to explicitly opt in to any electronic communications.

The database, which it was hoped would encourage more customers to switch supplier and lock in better deals, has been trialled this year. Ofgem today declined to say how those trials have gone - but says it now wants to continue testing different versions of the database before rolling out the plans nationally.

An Ofgem spokesman said: “We are committed to developing a remedy that works for consumers and encourages greater consumer engagement. We propose implementing a database remedy when we are sure it is secure, protects customer’s data privacy and benefits consumers. 

“We have decided to continue testing variants of the disengaged customer database remedy and therefore we are deferring the April 2018 target national rollout date originally set by the Competition and Markets Authority.”