Bulb customer? The takeover by Octopus is now complete – here's what you need to know
Octopus Energy finally took on all 1.5 million Bulb customers last night (Tuesday 20 December), after the agreement to transfer the failed firm completed. The takeover deal was initially agreed in October, but was delayed after other energy firms challenged the sale process. If you're a Bulb customer, here's what you need to know.
Update 31 March 2023: Energy firms' challenge to the takeover deal has been dismissed. On 31 March 2023, a legal challenge to the takeover of Bulb by Octopus was dismissed, as the High Court rejected arguments from other firms that they had not had enough time to examine the transaction.
After the decision, an Octopus statement said: "The High Court's findings are clear: Octopus paid a fair price for Bulb in an open and competitive process. Our focus is now on delivering the best service possible to our new and existing customers."
Bulb was placed into 'special administration' by the Government in November 2021, as the firm was too big for another supplier to take on its customers under the usual 'supplier of last resort' process, put in place by the energy regulator Ofgem for when providers fail. This allowed Bulb to trade as normal while its administrators worked to find the best solution for the company, its employees and taxpayers.
After a year-long process to find a buyer, the Government agreed a deal with Octopus at the end of October 2022. Final approval of the deal was expected in mid-November, but was delayed after other energy firms reportedly raised concerns that they had not had enough time to examine the transaction.
The High Court later ruled that the transfer could go ahead, and the deal was completed shortly before midnight on Tuesday 20 December. Customers will remain on Bulb's systems for now, but will be moved to Octopus's systems in the coming months – when it's time for you to be moved across, Octopus will be in touch.
However, other energy firms continued to challenge the deal through what's known as a 'judicial review' – a type of court case that allows the lawfulness of a government decision to be challenged. On 31 March 2023, these legal challenges were dismissed by the High Court.
Martin: 'A decent outcome for Bulb customers'
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis gave his initial reaction after the deal was announced at the end of October:
The November sale of Bulb to Octopus, at first look, seems a decent outcome for Bulb customers.
Octopus customer service is strongly rated, and in our survey it was the most painless firm in transferring customers over (it was one of only two with a net positive rating).
Bulb customer? You don't need to do anything
If you're a Bulb customer, nothing will change right now, so sit tight. But for now...
- Bulb is continuing to operate as usual for now. Octopus will be in touch before you're transferred over to its system with your new account details and info on how to set up an online account. Until then, you can manage your Bulb account as usual and you'll be looked after by the same Bulb customer service teams as today. Octopus asks you not to contact its team yet as they won't be able to help – technically you're still a Bulb customer until you are moved across.
- Your credit balance is protected. Credit balances will automatically get transferred to your new account with Octopus when it is set up.
- Don't cancel any existing direct debits. These will automatically be transferred when you move across to Octopus.
- Your supply and prices won't change. You'll pay the same rates under the energy price guarantee.
- Bulb will continue to make the monthly Energy Bills Support Scheme payments as usual. It says the £67 payments and vouchers will continue to arrive in the first 10 working days of the month, whether you pay by direct debit or top-up. See Bulb's support scheme help.
- Eligible Bulb customers will receive the warm home discount as planned. Bulb will continue to make warm home discount payments to eligible members in both the 'core group' and the 'broader group'. See its eligibility criteria.
Octopus customer? Nothing changes for you
Octopus states its customers should notice no difference. It says while Octopus's teams are busy providing support to people through the current energy crisis, the company does not expect any meaningful impact on its customers as it is also taking on Bulb's staff.
How will the deal work?
Octopus is paying the Government to take on Bulb's customer base. It says taxpayers will also benefit from a profit share agreement for a period of up to four years.
As Bulb is currently unhedged – meaning it isn't insured against wholesale price fluctuations – the Government will provide financial support to purchase energy for Bulb customers over the coming winter. Octopus will have to repay the Government funding over a set period.
What does Octopus say?
Greg Jackson, chief executive and founder of Octopus Energy Group, said: "This starts to bring an end to the huge financial exposures for taxpayers and paves the way for a better and more certain future for Bulb's staff and customers.
"For now, we'd ask Bulb customers to sit tight – they will still be looked after by the Bulb team. We'll be in touch with customers as and when their account is ready to move to Octopus's award-winning systems."
What does the Government say?
Speaking after the deal was initially announced, Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: "This government's overriding priority is to protect consumers, and today's sale will bring vital reassurance and energy security to consumers across the country at a time when they need it most.
"This is a fresh start and means Bulb's 1.5 million customers can rest easy, knowing they have a new energy home in Octopus.
"Moving forward, I intend to do everything in my power to ensure our energy system provides secure and affordable energy for all."