Communication-based approach for promoting energy consumer switching: some evidence from ofgem⇔s database trials in the United Kingdom

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Energies, 2020, 13, (19), pp. 5179-5179
Issue Date:
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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Prompted by rising concern about weak consumer switching and the practice of price discrimination, over the period of 2016–2019, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) undertook a series of trials on communication-based interventions to encourage consumer switching in the United Kingdom. The main purpose of this paper is to assess the experience of these Ofgem trials with a view to draw some lessons for policy makers. The analytical framework adopted for this purpose is informed by existing literature on the barriers for consumer switching. The results of the analysis suggest that while the Ofgem trials have made positive impacts on consumer switching, these impacts varied significantly across the trials, suggesting that some interventions were more effective than others. Further, the overall impacts of the Ofgem trials were moderate, as around 70% of participants did not switch suppliers even in the most impactful trial. This reflects a general lack of understanding in the literature about the behaviour-influencing factors, their impacts, and their context-connects. By implication, the difficulty in stimulating consumer switching, as demonstrated by the Ofgem trials, suggests that weak consumer switching and the practice of price discrimination may simply reflect significant competition, rather than a lack of it, especially if retail margins are not greater than the competitive level. In this case, the communication-based intervention aimed at encouraging consumer switching may lead to further price discrimination, especially for the most vulnerable consumers, who are more likely to stay with their incumbent suppliers.
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