Martin Lewis: Existing customer-only energy deals should be published for all to see
MoneySavingExpert (MSE) founder Martin Lewis has today written to the boss of energy regulator Ofgem urging him to ask all suppliers to publish existing customer-only tariff info, to make it easier for households to understand if a fixed deal is worth switching to.
Unlike open-market tariffs, with tariffs for existing customers there's no incentive for suppliers to publish the deal, or make it available on comparison websites, so it's hard for consumer help websites such as MSE to give analysis to help users make the best decisions around switching.
Martin first raised this issue with Ofgem several months ago, but with firms starting to bring back short-lived competitive fixed deals for the first time since the energy crisis hit, action is needed quickly.
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert, said: "It's somewhat frustrating to have to write this letter, as this is an issue I have raised informally with Ofgem a number of times over a number of months. It is yet another symptom of a broken energy market, with outdated regulation, that desperately needs an overhaul.
"In the middle of an energy crisis we need to get ahead of trends to ensure consumer protection, not behind them. The regulator says it's listening, but action is far too slow – by the time anything changes we've already moved on to the next issue."
Read Martin's full letter
Below is a copy of the original letter which was sent on 19 June:
Open letter to Jonathan Brearley
10 South Colonnade
London E14 4PU
Monday 19 June 2023
Energy firms have started to relaunch a few limited fixed-rate tariffs. All of these so far are opaque, existing customer-only deals. This is causing a lack of scrutiny that I would ask Ofgem to urgently remedy, to avoid consumer detriment. I mentioned this while interviewing you on Good Morning Britain and you said to write to you – so this is my formal follow-up.
It’s worth noting it’s only a couple of months ago that Ofgem requested anything I could do to help communicate to customers that when fixes return, any ‘savings compared to current prices’ risk being misleading as you have to compare them to the (likely lower) Price Cap rates over the next year. I was happy to help as it was on my list of concerns too, but I am somewhat impotent to help more because of the outdated rules.
This is because, with existing customer-only deals – unlike the open-market tariffs that used to be on offer – there’s no incentive for firms to publish the fact they’re offering a tariff, never mind the average rate, or the most useful full region-by-region price list of standing charges and unit rates. In practice, this means many don’t publish these deals.
This makes it near-impossible for consumer help organisations to gather information and provide adequate guidance on deals. Right now, we’re having to rely on crowdsourcing from consumers willing to forward us bills – not easy for every tariff for every region, even for those with a substantial public reach, as MSE and I have. It is a slow, laborious, incomplete process, which leaves the information lacking and it just isn’t fit for purpose, especially when the market is moving so fast.
It also leaves a problem later on down the road. As these deals aren’t listed on comparison sites because the information isn’t available, when consumers who get them then come to the end of their tariffs, they won’t be able to do a comparison – even if open-market deals have returned by then – as there won’t be data on the tariff they are on.
The best thing would be to immediately change regulations to ensure firms are required to clearly publish the rate books of all tariffs being offered to consumers, including existing customer-only deals. This would ensure there’s proper transparency and scrutiny, to help aid consumers to make decisions.
Yet I understand regulatory and rule changes can be long and cumbersome, and require consultation. So in the meantime, I would ask that Ofgem puts out as strong guidance as is possible to energy firms that they should ‘voluntarily’ do this. This is not an issue that can wait – market confusion over energy tariffs is rife and set to explode. I hope you can help nip that in the bud.
Founder and Chair, MoneySavingExpert.com
What energy deals are available right now and who can get them?
Last week, So Energy became the first supplier to offer a competitive fixed deal to new customers since the energy crisis began – though the market is frequently changing and it could be pulled at any point.
We're expecting more open-market deals to launch in the coming weeks. For the latest updates, including our analysis of all the existing customer tariffs we know about, see our Is it time to fix your energy? guide.