Islanders turned-off by option to switch energy supplier

editorial image

Figures released by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) confirm that energy customers in the Western Isles are amongst the least likely to switch supplier.

In 2018, according to the CAS figures, only 14 per-cent of households in the Western Isles opted to switch supplier, the second lowest of all local authority areas, while nearly a quarter of households in East Renfrewshire, the highest in Scotland, pulled the plug on their existing tariff.

The figures have been released by CAS to mark Big Energy Saving Week 2019 and, the advice agency claims, ‘despite the introduction of a price cap on energy bills at the start of the year, additional analysis shows that people could still save more than £150 by switching their supplier or tariff’.

Emma Grant McColm, Energy Policy Manager at Citizens Advice Scotland, said that consumers can save money by switching.

She said: “The figures show that there is huge variation across Scotland in rates of switching energy supplier. Big Energy Saving Week aims to tackle fuel poverty by raising awareness of ways that consumers can keep their energy bills down and helping them to find better deals, discounts, grants and help.

“We know there are still large numbers of people paying over the odds on their energy bills. Although the energy market is changing because of the introduction of the price cap, there are still substantial savings to be made.”

CAS has also highlighted that there are a number of reasons why switching rates have been lower in rural and island areas, stating that, in the past, households with restricted meters and electric heating had a limited choice of tariffs, but the advice agency also states that today more tariffs should be available to these households.

Emma Grant McColm added: “We know that many of our clients in Scotland are struggling to pay their energy bills. In 2017/18, the Citizens Advice Network in Scotland dealt with 38,000 energy cases.

“In 2017, 24.9 per-cent of households across Scotland were estimated to be in fuel poverty – heating or eating is a real choice for many people and we would urge anyone struggling with their energy bills to get in touch with their local Bureau.”

Commenting on what more could be done to increase the rate of switching locally, Western Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil, said: “More can always be done, and it is difficult with the model the UK has chosen for energy, that relies on customers being active on this or else they are at risk of being ripped off.

“The best thing people can do for themselves immediately is to get their bill in hand and go to a price comparison website, such as Go Compare or Uswitch.com, and follow the steps showing people what they might save.

“Also, people can help neighbours and elderly relatives too, and it can be sorted in 10 or 20 mins, saving in some cases, a couple of hundred pounds a year.”

According to CAS figures, which are based on local switching data from Electralin, the top five areas in Scotland for switching energy supplier during 2018 are East Renfrewshire (22.4%), Midlothian (21.3%), Fife (21.1% ), East Dunbartonshire ( 21.1% ) and Clackmannanshire (20.9%).

The local authority areas in Scotland where households are least likely to switch are the Shetland Islands (9.9%), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (14%), Highland (14.7%), Argyll & Bute (14.8%) and Orkney Islands (14.9%).

The Comhairle, which is a partner in Hebrides Energy, was approached for comment but none has been received at the time of going to press.

Hebrides Energy, is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company led by Tighean Innse Gall, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Stornoway Trust and Community Energy Scotland, working with supplier ‘Our Power’ to offer a range of ‘Hebridean Tariffs’ to the local market.