Updated: Sunday, 21st December 2014 @ 8:17am

Big Switch campaign coming to Manchester Arndale in effort to encourage energy customers to group together and save

Big Switch campaign coming to Manchester Arndale in effort to encourage energy customers to group together and save

By Charlie Bennett

Manchester’s energy customers are being offered the chance to group together in numbers to secure the best possible gas and electricity prices this year.

The Arndale Centre is one of the many venues held across the UK for the Big Switch campaign. From February 29 until March 3, its organisers will be there to inform and to sign you up with an innovative scheme wherein we can bulk buy energy.

The campaign is backed by the non-profit activist organisation 38 Degrees, who were a key player in the stopping of the government’s national forestry sell-off last year, and the consumer organisation Which?, who estimate that consumers are collectively paying £4.1 billion a year more than they need to by not switching to a cheaper energy supplier.

“The pop-up events will have Which? experts on hand to offer consumers advice about saving money on their energy bills as well as helping them sign up,” said Becky Jarvis, a 38 Degrees campaigner. “In addition, iPads at the events will capture Vox Pops of people’s views about their energy so they can have their say on the issues that matter most to them.”

Customers are urged to increase their bargaining power by signing up on either the 38 Degrees’ Big Switch or Which? websites (and to tell their families and friends to do the same) by March 31. The Which? negotiators will then start bargaining with your listed energy company using a ‘reverse auction’. This might last over a day, as companies compete to give the lowest price per kilowatt of electricity and cubic meter of gas.

The winning deal is offered to everyone who signed up and Which? shall handle the switching process. This is only if you accept an email or text message notification; you don’t have to sign up with a different supplier if you’re not happy with the deal.

This is the first time ‘collective switching’ via reverse auction will have been tried in the UK. It was attempted before in the Netherlands – Which?’s sister organisation, Consumentenbond, successfully cut energy bills for 20,000 customers.

During the Arndale exhibition, Mancunians might also want to get some energy-related questions ready for the government. “There will also be places for people to put their questions to the Energy Minister,” Becky adds, referring to Liberal Democrat Edward Davey. “We’re hoping to follow that up with a radio partnership to then put some of these questions live on air to the Minister.”

“I’m delighted that Which? have developed their Big Switch,” claimed Mr Davey, who was appointed Energy and Climate Change Secretary last Friday following Chris Huhne’s resignation. “I have long believed that collective purchasing will be a game-changer in terms of handing power back to consumers.”

Mr Davey says that he intends to remove barriers to enable more initiatives like the Big Switch, whilst at the same time working with energy regulator Ofgem to boost market competition so that consumers can get the best deals.

If you would like to sign up, you can do so from today at http://www.whichbigswitch.co.uk/