Taking on the energy giants: The co-operative insurgency gains ground

The roots of the co-operative movement lie in providing an alternative to unscrupulous providers; it was made for the fight against the energy oligopoly.

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When 38 Degrees recruited more than 200,000 energy consumers to bargain for better energy prices  as a bloc, Left Foot Forward asked why the leading campaigning group was not asking more of its members than pursuing their self-interest.

Energy-rip-offCormac Hollingsworth argued that if the campaigners acted co-operatively, the possible prize could be so much bigger:

Co-operators live their values: the ethics of a co-operative owning enterprise is as important as getting the best price in a competitive market.

At this point the cry might be, well where’s the Co-op movement’s answer to the energy oligopoly? If you don’t know, then you need to get out of London more often.

The Midcounties Co-operative has been running a very effective energy co-op called Co-operative Energy, growing it through regional ads. It gained its 200,000th customer this month.

What is perhaps ironic is that while 38 Degrees is going to “work with consumer experts at Which? to negotiate cheaper rates on our behalf”, no-one thought to mention that Co-operative Energy won last year’s Which? Consumer Action award.

38 Degrees’ tagline is power, people, change. After their data harvesting from saving forests and campaigning more effectively on the NHS than anyone else one cannot deny that they have the first two.

But I’d like to see them think a little more about how they add “sustainable” to their aspiration for “change”.

When we spoke to 38 Degrees afterwards, they did say that a co-operative option had not been taken off the table, and we are delighted that that is precisely what the organisation has backed.

“Some good news. We’ve just got the results for our people-powered bid to get cheaper gas and electricity prices.The Co-op has come forward with the cheapest offer. And it looks like those of us taking part could save a grand total of £25 million. 200,000 households will be offered an average saving of £123 a year.

“This proves our plan to use our shared buying power to drive a harder bargain can work. But it’s also great news that Co-operative Energy – a newer, smaller and more ethical supplier – managed to offer the cheapest deal.

“The Co-op offered us a better price than giants like British Gas. Maybe that’s got something to do with their different business model – they don’t pay their bosses whopping bonuses, and they’re keener on green energy. When thousands of us switch over, we’ll send a signal to the huge, profit-hungry companies: gas and electricity customers are taking their power back!”

 


See also:

We need more community and co-operative ownership of energy 13 Mar 2012

Let’s end the tyranny of the big six energy companies 17 Oct 2011

Outrage at 733 per cent rise in energy companies’ profits 14 Oct 2011

Government needs to take on the energy companies to bring down prices 17 Aug 2011

Misselling is only the beginning of the energy companies’ sins 25 Jul 2011


 

The roots of the co-operative movement lie in providing an alternative to unscrupulous providers who would adulterate their goods and opportunistically inflate their prices.  It was made for the fight against the energy oligopoly.

 


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18 Responses to “Taking on the energy giants: The co-operative insurgency gains ground”

  1. leftlinks

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  2. keith ferguson

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  3. OCCUPYLOCALGOVT

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  7. Hitchin England

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  8. Pulp Ark

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  9. Political Planet

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  11. Anonymous

    Great, and how does that help me? I can’t change supplier, the shared contract for this place says I cannot do that (despite it being in the name of a housemate). The Landlord has refused FREE energy saving measures, since it means work on the house, which is potentially an insurance issue (not only damage, what if they find something which needs fixing?) And how does it help people on meters, paying double and more standard rates?

    This is a diversion from the real, legal, reform needed.

    (The right to chose your utility providers as tenants (and protection for the landlord in terms of being able to get reconnected with new tenants if there was an issue), no permission needed for energy company works, shared contracts for energy/gas, and the provision to hand them over directly to new tenants, meters on standard tarrifs + a small cost (say 3%), etc.)

  12. Blarg1987

    You can change energy suppliers as the OFT view such clauses as unfair and possibly illegal.

    There is no insurence issues with putting in additional energy saving measures as you said yourlandlord might be hiding things in which case I would report your landlord and see what happens.

    Usually energy bills should follow indivuals and some landlords use the excuse of previous tennants not paying energy bills as an excuse to pocket extra cash in which case they should be named and shamed.

  13. Anonymous

    And that will help when we’re served notice of expulsion just fine, I’m sure. Moreover, it’s only for certain kinds of lease.

    “There is no insurence issues”

    Yes, there is. If the building is damaged, then the landlord has to claim.

    Although energy bills follow individuals, it’s quite common for future tenants or even the landlord to be harassed by collectors, and it’s used as an excuse to fit meters, which are dramatically more expensive.

    “named and shamed”

    Ah yes, being thrown out of your house, at best 2 months later, is such a great compensation.

    No, the law needs to change. It needs to be *illegal* to try to lock tenants, on any sort of contact, into suppliers so any retaliation can be punished in court.

  14. Blarg1987

    No there is no insurence issue i.e. the landlord installs PV panels or extra insulation will not increase the insurence for the property.

    yes the system does need to change, but to do the ebst with what we have, name and shame etc so if you do mobve it it may be worth doing if the landlord is inflexible.

  15. Anonymous

    You’re missing the point. If there’s any kind of damage, he’s going to need to negotiate an insurance claim for the repairs.

    Many landlords plain are not interested, and it’s no skim off their nose to simply refuse.

    (Also, incorrect, PV panels are a common cause of accidents due to needed maintenance (someone climbing about on the roof) and can indeed increase your insurance liability in many cases)

    And you think landlords won’t check on the names of “trouble makers”. Ha.

  16. Soviet Unit

    Co-operatives attack #gas giants in the #UK, offering better tariffs http://t.co/KuceQnmO

  17. Her Majesty’s uncooperative Queen’s Speech | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Taking on the energy giants: The co-operative insurgency gains ground 11 May […]

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