November 2021

I’m keen to update you about the changes we are continuing to see in the energy market and how you can support customers who may be worried about this, and also on our plans for stocking replacement energy cards and keys in selected Post Office branches.

Current energy market changes
We carried out a poll of more than 2,000 consumers in October and two-thirds said they are concerned about increased energy prices, with more than a third extremely concerned.

The energy price cap – the maximum energy companies are allowed to charge households on standard tariffs – has also risen for many households, and is predicted to increase further. Our poll found six in 10 people were aware of the increase in the energy price cap.

Given the constantly changing energy market situation at the moment, I appreciate that customers, especially vulnerable customers, may also be concerned about their energy company going out of business, and you may be getting questions from your customers about it. 

You can reassure your customers that they won’t be left without gas or electricity if their supplier does go out of business as the energy regulator Ofgem will arrange for customers to be transferred to another supplier.

Customers might have to wait a few weeks to find out who their new supplier is (but they will still have a supply during that time). The new supplier will contact those customers to let them know that they will be taking over their energy supply.

They can then switch if they’re not happy with their new supplier or switch to a new tariff, and they can do this without paying an exit fee.

If a supplier has gone out of business, customers should:

  • take meter readings - it’s useful to take a photo of meter readings too
  • keep any old bills - these can help prove payment history, credit balance or debt
  • make a note of their account balance – this is on the most recent account statement.

We are working with all the energy companies to ensure customers can pay their bills at Post Office branches.

What are the causes?

Wholesale gas prices have risen by more than 250 per cent since January 2021 and 650 per cent in the last 15 months.

Post-Covid demand is increasing while supply has been falling. The cold winter in 2020 left stocks in Europe low. Asia also suffered a cold winter and increased demand has pushed up prices in the UK and across Europe and Asia.

Before Covid there were 70 energy suppliers in the UK, and since August this year 26 of them have gone into administration. To reassure you, our major energy clients and their customers are not considered to be at risk - most of those affected are smaller newer entrants, and many of them only accept pre and post-payment using online or digital payments.

So far since August we have seen:

  • People’s Energy Company, PFP Energy, MoneyPlus Energy, Bluegreen Energy, Zebra Power, Simplicity, Neon Reef and Social Energy Supply customers moving to British Gas
  • Utility Point (all digital) and Green Network Energy customers moving to EDF
  • Hub Energy, Igloo, Symbio Energy and Enstroga Energy customers moving to ON Next
  • Omni Energy customers moving to Utilita
  • Green, Daligas, Pure Planet, Goto Energy and Colorado Energy customers moving to Shell Energy
  • Avro Energy customers moving to Octopus Energy
  • CNG Energy and CNG Electricity customers moving to Pozitive Energy
  • MA Energy customers moving to SmartestEnergy Business Ltd
  • Ampower customers moving to Yu Energy
  • Bulb – will enter into ‘special administration’ as announced on 22 November - will continue to operate as usual but through Ofgem and customers remain with the company for the time being.
  • Entice and Orbit – announced on 25 November, awaiting confirmation of which suppliers customers will move to.

The situation is still changing and more suppliers are expected to go out of business. We will continue to keep you updated and please do let me know in the comments if you have any feedback or questions about this.

Stocking replacement energy cards and keys
I’m pleased to announce the trial is live with the first seven branches now stocking replacement energy cards and keys for customers. 

Thank you to all of you who contacted the inbox about the possibility of stocking them too – thank you for submitting your enquiry as we have more than 800 enquiries received. We are now moving into the next phase, with a further 120 locations identified as critical and we aim to have these branches installed within the next six to eight weeks. We’ve contacted those selected 120 branches we’ll take forward initially, to let them know they will be able to provide the service in the near future. 

We work closely with the energy companies to determine where they require stockists because there is a cost in deploying replacement stock. For the remaining enquiries, please be reassured we are still reviewing your application and working with the energy clients to determine whether to extend this further in future, and we will keep you posted. 

Digital vouchers make a great gift
Don’t forget we offer a range of digital vouchers in branch including Amazon, Adidas, Google, Netflix, Nintendo, Sony, Spotify and Xbox.

Customers can buy the digital vouchers in branch and top up their digital accounts with a unique code printed on each voucher sold. The vouchers are available to sell on Horizon – they can’t be sold through the Paystation or on self-service kiosks.

They are a great way to earn extra incremental remuneration, especially in the peak festive sales period.

Warm Home Discount vouchers – supporting vulnerable customers
Post Office continues to be the service provider of choice for over-the-counter delivery of the Warm Home Discount.

In the next four weeks we expect around 50,000 Warm Home Discount vouchers to be presented across the Post Office network, providing vulnerable customers with energy on behalf of companies including British Gas, E.ON, E.ON Next, EDF, ScottishPower, Nabuh and Bulb. Further vouchers will be issued throughout the winter, with a total of more than 450,000 by the end of March 2022.

We are aware there is a need to process three transactions under £49.00 each for the customer to receive their full payout amount of £140 credited to their keys and cards. Unfortunately, this is set at an industry level and we continue to work to see if we can increase the amount. 

Thank you for helping us to support these customers again this winter.