According to our latest market share survey, independent energy suppliers are continuing to rapidly gain customers from the major suppliers. Their collective market share now stands at 11.2% (up from 10.5% in April), which is higher than three of the major suppliers.
This quarter (May-July) has seen the continuation of bearish commodity prices that has allowed independent suppliers to pass through competitive deals, and respond quickly to changes in wholesale prices. As a result, independents have continued to lead the market in terms of offering the very cheapest online fixed tariffs, although there was briefly a notable exception. SSE launched a one year fixed deal in early July, but removed it after just 12 days. The tariff was the cheapest fixed deal on the market, beating competitive offers from newer entrants.
Scottish Power and EDF Energy have both come closer to matching the independents, as their fixed deals have been the most competitive out of the Big Six. These deals will have proved useful attracting customers who otherwise would have rolled onto more expensive standard variable tariffs, from fixed deals which have expired.
RWE npower in particular has reported account losses, outlined in its half year financial results (here). In its acknowledgement of ongoing billing issues and a poor customer service record, the supplier revealed that around 300,000 customers left in the year to June 2015. Its one year fixed tariff offer appears aimed at stopping if not reversing the losses. In addition, RWE npower says the billing issues will not be resolved until the end of 2016, and so imminent recovery of accounts will require much hard work.
The declining trend was echoed across almost all of the Big Six this survey, who suffered an aggregate loss of around 300,000 energy accounts. Transfers therefore bolstered the number of customers moving to smaller suppliers, with a wider range of Independent suppliers gaining customers than seen in the three months to April 2015. New entrant GB Energy for example has gained significantly following its market-leading variable tariff offer (from medium usage Ofgem TDCVs), as it remained very competitive since April.
The survey recorded further new entry with the addition of Robin Hood Energy, a non-profit supplier run by Nottingham City Council. While the supplier officially launched its competitive tariff on 7 September, which was fourth cheapest in the market, it underwent the process known as "controlled market entry" during the survey period.
More recently, there have been further new start-ups coming forward. Future Energy launched on 14 September, targeting the North Eastern region with its dual fuel offer. Bulb, on the other hand, commenced its national domestic supply business on 28 August and offers the cheapest 100% renewable tariff on the market - so it will certainly be interesting to see how it fares.
But there's life in the major suppliers yet. EDF Energy recently responded to the tumbling market prices with the launch of two competitive fixed deals. And with half of the quarter still to go, there may be many more new products and deals to consider before setting predictions for the final survey of 2015.