Ofgem casts eye over supermarkets selling energy

When you pop to the supermarket these days, you don’t just go for the groceries – shoppers can buy electronic goods, car insurance – and more recently, a good deal […]

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By Vicky Ellis

When you pop to the supermarket these days, you don’t just go for the groceries – shoppers can buy electronic goods, car insurance – and more recently, a good deal on your energy.

From M&S to Sainsbury’s, a number of retailers on the British high street offer electricity to customers as a “white label” provider.

This means they sell the gas or electricity of a licensed supplier, usually one of the Big Six energy companies, under their own brand name.

Energy regulator Ofgem has an eye trained upon these contracts.

First in June 2013 the body said it was in consumers’ interests to put “further consideration” on how white labels are governed.

Then on Friday, the body called for feedback on white labels from energy suppliers, the providers themselves, consumer groups and academics.

In a letter to these groups, Ofgem’s Partner for Retail Markets and Research Maxine Frerk wrote that white labels have the “potential to deliver greater consumer choice and competition”.

She said they could possibly help household brands enter in the retail energy market – which would presumably boost competition – and even develop “new business models”.

But Ms Frerk expressed concern about possible negative effects: “At the same time, we noted that white labels might undermine our aim of a simpler retail energy market and weaken consumer protections.”

The regulator wants all interested parties to email responses to [email protected] by 4 April 2014.