After years of singing the praises of the automated switching industry, MoneySavingExpert has finally brought out an automated energy switching service, powered by its owner, Money Supermarket.
The key claim from MSE Autoswitch is that, unlike other free automated switchers, they compare the whole of the market. Here’s what they say on their website:
“We don't ignore providers we can't switch to you. MSE auto-compare-and-switch includes all providers, whether we can switch you to them or not.
“If the top pick is one we can't switch you to, it's still your top pick, but choosing it means you can't then be on Autoswitch, so we'll also show you your top tariff that you can autoswitch to.”
So it may be true that they compare the whole of the market, but this doesn’t mean that they switch to the whole of the market. If they won’t receive commission for the switch, they won’t switch you to that deal.
MSE have left it ambiguous as to why they wouldn’t switch you to somebody. Here at Switchd, we have set up switch processes with top suppliers who don’t give us a penny in commission. So we know for a fact that it’s possible to set up a switch even if no money is changing hands (that’s literally how our service operates!)
We are open about which suppliers we switch to and which we don’t – the list is always available on our supplier page. Any suppliers we remove from the algorithm can also be added back in by a member for their own personal algorithm. We hope that MSE will do the same for their service. If they don’t, ask them why not!
The other thing we’re not sure about is what MSE class as “automated”. In our books, an automated process is something that doesn’t need manual intervention. MSE state on their site that their members need to manually verify switches before they go ahead. Here’s a relevant question: Is a car still an automatic if the driver has to press a button whenever they need to change gear?
All jokes aside, the issue with requiring user intervention is that it adds an element of work and hassle to being switched, which means a lot of people don’t get around to it. In a 2019 Ofgem survey, Ipsos found that “of those signed up to an energy scanning / auto switching service 67% said they had received a notification from it in the past 12 months. 19% of these took action following this”. So, fewer than 1 in 5 actually make the switch that they’re recommended, even though it will save them money.
MSE also promote the ability for their members to personalise the algorithm to their tastes. This is not unique to MSE. Switchd offers the following filters:
There are over 600 combinations of filters for Switchd members, so it’s safe to say it’s very customisable! MSE has also chosen to offer a points system where you allocate points to what is important to you. We don't know exactly how this affects your results, but we have always avoided such a system. We want our members to be in full control - so if they want a green provider, they can tick that box and only get green providers. If they want a minimum Trustpilot rating of 4 stars, they should be able to select that. We get a lot of positive feedback from our members on how straightforward and transparent our algorithm is, and we chose not to create a points system in order not to damage the trust our members have in us.
There have also been concerns both from Citizens’ Advice and other independent studies that commission-driven services have a negative effect on the industry overall. This University of Leeds study revealed that comparison sites are causing households to spend an additional £100 million per year due to the commissions they receive from energy suppliers. Any energy switching service that is free for the customer but provides a commission to the service provider will increase the cost to all of those who don’t use the service.
We're really glad to have seen MSE join the autoswitching fold - the more people banging the drum about autoswitching, the better! Some people will prefer the way they do things, others will prefer the way we do. We just hope that this article shines a little light on our differences.