Blog: Is Co-op’s canny move the dawn of a new “ethical” energy?

It’s a masterstroke in winning the hearts and minds of the public: you really have to hand it to Co-operative Energy. Announcing a 2% price drop on the same day […]

By Vicky Ellis

It’s a masterstroke in winning the hearts and minds of the public: you really have to hand it to Co-operative Energy.

Announcing a 2% price drop on the same day British Gas put its tariffs up 6%, is such obvious, complete genius.

What’s more, today’s PR coup comes after an autumn when five of the Big Six have got masses of stick for upping their tariffs – and at the end of a week when the finger has been pointed at all major suppliers for possibly trying to manipulate the gas market for profit. (The allegations have been strongly denied.)

Canny move, Co-operative Energy, very canny indeed. What better time to get primetime slots to publicise yourself. I bet other small suppliers – the ‘Challenger Seven’, as Good Energy’s Juliet Davenport likes to say – would do anything for that sort of airtime.

So are we witnessing the dawn of a new “ethical” energy?

It is definitely time for suppliers to behave with dignity, treat their customers with some respect.

The days when cold-callers can con grannies into more expensive tariffs on their doorstep are over. People don’t take kindly when they get threatening letters from “debt-collector”-style goons sent by suppliers, telling them to pay their bills, when they might be wrong in the first place.

The fact that people have been crying out for fair play is clear: You just have to take a peek at Co-operative Energy’s Facebook page to see the goodwill they’re getting, not just because of the price rise.

One question to the industry though, playing devil’s advocate here – and someone’s always got to.

Is it fair, is it “ethical”, to sledgehammer big suppliers for making millions in profits when they’re going to have to splash billions – at least £200bn, possibly as much as £330bn by some estimates – on power system upgrades in the next decade? I’d welcome people’s thoughts on this.

I’m not being facetious here – there has been some appalling behaviour from suppliers and it could be proven to be much worse if the gas market fixing probe throws up dodgy dealing.

However, if we are to have a revamped energy market with honesty and openness, shouldn’t we have a clean slate? By all means subject suppliers to rigorous scrutiny – but let’s be fair about it.

In the meantime, good on you, Co-op Energy. Lead the charge to a new ethical future.

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