CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - BG price rise encourages supply switch

In December 2001, British Gas announced a 5.3 per cent increase in prices, the second rise in ten months. In response, the Consumers' Association launched an initiative to inform users about BG's relatively high prices and demonstrate how easy it is to switch to a cheaper supplier.

Objective

To create awareness about the savings to be made by switching from BG and encourage a culture of switching.

Strategy and Plan

January's Which? profiled a family saving £28.95 by switching from BG and showed the average saving for consumers switching utilities would be £60 a year.

The Consumers' Association's in-house media team set up a dedicated website, www.switchwithwhich.co.uk, with switching advice.

On 2 January, the eve of BG's price increase, the media team arranged for the slogan 'Tell Sid to Switch' and the website address to be projected onto Fulham gasworks.

To sustain media coverage afterwards, the Consumers' Association responded to Energywatch research about numbers of people switching and a Select Committee Report on electricity switching, which showed the campaign had encouraged switching.

Measurement and Evaluation

Media coverage started on 2 January with BBC 6 O'Clock News and Sky News live in Fulham. Newspaper coverage the next day included The Independent, Guardian, Financial Times, Daily Express, Daily Mail and Daily Star. GMTV ran a live studio interview with a Which? spokesperson.

The following weekend The Sun, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Times covered the story. In the two weeks after the launch there were more than 30 items of national coverage.

The Consumers' Association and Which? were often prominently mentioned.

Results

The campaign prompted thousands of people to consider switching from BG.

By early March, 17,000 hits had been recorded on the dedicated website.

Energywatch-accredited online switching companies reported a doubling in online switching after the campaign. Between 3 and 13 January these sites helped 6,100 customers switch supplier, one third of whom came from the dedicated website.

In an area in which consumers are traditionally apathetic, the campaign clearly had impact.

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