Fate of workers not known
Ofgem appoints Utilita to take on Our Power customers
Actor and social activist Michael Sheen was a supporter of Our Power
Ofgem has appointed Utilita Energy to take on supplying Edinburgh-based Our Power’s 31,000 domestic customers following a competitive process run by Ofgem to get the best deal possible for customers.
Utilita is offering Our Power’s customers a competitive tariff and will honour all outstanding credit balances, including money owed to both existing and former customers of Our Power. The fate of the not-for-profit firm’s 70 staff was not confirmed.
The company, which was backed by the Scottish government and housing associations but ceased trading at the weekend.
Warm Home Discount customers who have already been approved by Our Power will continue to receive their payment from Utilita which will absorb the costs of honouring customers’ credit balances and the migration of customers.
For existing customers, energy supplies will continue as normal as they switch over to Utilita on 31 January. Customers with prepayment tariffs can continue to top up their meters as they had done previously with Our Power.
Customers of Our Power will be contacted over the coming days about the changes. If customers wish to switch supplier they should shop around. Customers will not be charged exit fees if they decide to switch to another supplier.
Utilita has committed to make significant improvements in its complaints handling and answering of phone calls by end of March – making it easier for customers to contact them. Ofgem says this will improve customer service both for Utilita’s existing customers, and incoming Our Power customers.
Philippa Pickford, Ofgem’s director for future retail markets, said: “I am pleased to announce we have appointed Utilita, which will offer Our Power’s customers a competitive tariff for their energy. Their credit balances will be honoured and their energy supply will continue as normal.
“Utilita has also agreed to absorb the costs of taking on these customers and outstanding credit balances, which means the extra costs will not fall on the industry or households.
“Utilita will be in contact with customers over the coming days with further information. Once the transfer has been completed, customers can shop around for a better deal if they wish to.”
“We are pleased that Utilita has given firm commitments to delivering a positive customer experience. We expect them to continue building on this, to ensure a good customer experience for all customers.”
Customers with questions should contact Utilita’s customer service team on 03300 583 392. More information for Our Power’s customers can be found on Ofgem’s website.
Scottish Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP raised concerns about the collapse of Our Power with Scottish ministers.
He said: “Our Power’s plight is a shame for the 70 staff based in Edinburgh, customers and the prospect of healthier competition in the energy supply market.
“Our Power was a not-for-profit venture aimed at tackling fuel poverty, being socially responsible and giving customers a fair deal. Those are the exact same principles the Scottish Government wants to underpin its own new energy company.
“First and foremost, a fair outcome is needed for staff. Ministers must also be clear about what lessons are being learned for their own scheme and what guarantees there are that taxpayers cash won’t go the same way as the £10 million they invested in this project.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton has demanded answers on the total financial backing provided to Our Power by the Scottish Government, and what may be outstanding.
In the last year 11 small energy suppliers have ceased operating.
Mr Cole-Hamilton asked: “What has the Scottish Government learned from this recent volatility in the market and have its own plans for an energy company been altered at all? Has it shared learning with local authorities thinking about similar ventures? Has its Outline Business Case been concluded and what guarantees are there that it is a safe use of taxpayers’ cash?”