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How energy price comparison websites exaggerate savings - Part 5


5. The Research

In order to analyse the impact that the "inflated" saving methodology is having on consumers, TheEnergyShop.com conducted a review of all the main price comparison websites as well as the websites of the energy supplier websites, both large and small. We were looking to identify the following;

1. Which company was following which methodology, and

2. What impact the different approaches were having on the savings quoted to consumers.


Sites Analysed

Price Comparison Websites

We reviewed all the main comparison websites, whether accredited to the Ofgem Confidence or not. This included the "Big 6" and other smaller operators (ourselves included).

The Big 6 (6)

- confused

- comparethemarket

- gocompare

- moneysavingexpert (operated my Martin Lewis)

- moneysupermarket

- uswitch

Although moneysavingexpert is owned by moneysupermarket it has been included within the Big 6 because it runs a separate and distinct price comparison service and generates more switches and sales than any of confused, comparethemarket or gocompare. Indeed moneysavingexpert, even though it is not accredited to the Ofgem Confidence Code, is certainly the third if not the second largest generator of energy switches and energy commissions in the UK.

The others (9)

- energyhelpline

- energylinx

- myutilitygenius

- runpathdigital

- simplyswitch

- switchgasandelectric

- ukpower

- unravelit

- Which?

and (as a reference)

- TheEnergyShop.com (that's us)


Energy Supplier Websites

The Big 6 (6)

- British Gas

- EDF Energy

- E.ON

- npower

- ScottishPower

- SSE

The others (17)

- Better Energy

- Co-operative energy

- Daligas

- EBICo

- ecotricity

- extraenergy

- first:utility

- Flow energy

- Good Energy

- green energy uk

- Green Star Energy

- isupplyenergy

- LoCO2 energy

- OVO energy

- Spark Energy

- Utility Warehouse

- Zog Energy


Methodology

Two tariffs that are expiring within 12 months were selected for the purpose of the research, one from EDF Energy and the other from npower. One tariff has a short time to expiry (npower) whereas the other is not expiring for 5 months. These were set as the customer's current tariff for comparison purposes.

For each tariff a specific profile was selected (region / payment method / consumption). The details of the profiles selected are shown in Table 1 below.

The bill values for the customer's current tariff, the bill value for the cheapest deal in the market for the profiles chosen on the analysis day, and the expected saving based on the "true" methodology were calculated manually and used as the reference point for the comparison. The rates used and the detailed step-by-step calculations behind them are shown in Tables 7 and 8 in Appendix A.

Price Comparison Websites

The customer current profiles were entered into all the price comparison websites on the same date (28 Jan 2015) in order to get a comparable analysis of the savings quoted for the cheapest tariff in the market on that day. Details of bills and savings were recorded and evidenced with screen shots. The exception to this was Which?, where the analysis was done on 6 February 2015. This creates a minor distortion which only arises because the "inflated" methodology creates a different saving figure each day.

Energy Supplier Websites

Each of the supplier websites was reviewed on 2 February 2015. We checked each site for the following;

- Whether they offered online quotes

- Whether they quoted comparative savings

- Which methodology was used for quoting savings

If the site offered a comparison and savings analysis we attempted to use the same profiles as for the comparison websites as far as this was possible. All data was recorded and evidenced with screen shots.

It should be noted that energy suppliers only sell their own tariffs on their own websites (where they sell). Consequently the cheapest tariff will, in all but one case, be more expensive than that seen on a price comparison website. The savings will also therefore be different. The saving quote was not the important part of this exercise. The key issue was to determine which methodology the energy supplier was using to calculate the customer's current tariff for comparison purposes.


Campaign to stop dodgy and mis-leading comparisons

Support our campaign to stop this dodgy and mis-leading practise.

If you feel you've been given an "inflated" saving by a price comparison website or energy supplier we'd like to know about it.

Please drop us a note.


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