Is this collective purchasing’s coming of age?

In a previous post I bemoaned the failure of collective energy purchasing schemes, in particular the Big Switch which is supported with public funds, to deliver financial benefits to consumers. Despite the real potential for consumers to join together to flex their collective purchasing muscles, the deals that had been ‘negotiated’ to were merely those already available to any individual bothered to ‘compare the market’….to borrow a phrase. Despite the rhetoric and public money the big switch was more than a little whimper as a display of collective purchasing’s potential.

This failure to do anything other than signpost people to the best energy deals available was a source of huge frustration to me. I am delighted to say that the game appears to have changed with the entrance of consumer advocacy giant Money Saving Expert (MSE).

MSE recently announced that they were getting involved in the collective energy purchasing game, using their huge network of some 9 million registered users to negotiate energy deals. Unlike previous efforts, MSE have managed to extract a more competitive and attractive deal from the bidding energy companies than the products they routinely offer. Not only have they done this, they’ve done it with four different types of product, reflecting the interests of consumers looking to buy in to long term and short term fixed deals, a pre-pay rate and a green energy tariff.

MSE’s founder, Martin Lewis, has written how he was ambivalent about collective energy purchase schemes, for reasons much like my own – that they fail to deliver any real benefit to consumers. But now, with their move into the collective purchasing space, the goal posts have moved and energy companies have responded by offering better deals.

I’m delighted that MSE have demonstrated the real potential of collective purchasing on a scale that places the power in consumers’ hands. I hope that others will follow where MSE have led and that, finally, collective purchasing will come of age.

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