Swuto, a startup that L’Atelier met up with while visiting Amsterdam for the Smart City Event on 2-5 June, is looking to revolutionise energy price comparison sites by offering in addition to take care of the supplier switching process on behalf of the customer.

1 July 2007 was the day the energy market opened up to competition for private consumers in France. However, by end-2013, i.e. seven years after the introduction of market liberalisation, the French Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) discovered that only 2.3 million households had changed their electricity supplier out of the 31 million which were eligible to do so. So how can we account for this low proportion of people switching suppliers? Perhaps it is mainly to do with the cost of switching, given that the price differential between one gas or electricity supplier and another may simply not justify the administrative hassles involved in making the switch.

We should also point out that energy market prices are still regulated for non-professional consumers in France, even though the government introduced a progressive phase out of regulated prices for certain categories of professionals. And while there are in fact several dozen suppliers for gas and/or electricity on the French market today, this market – dominated as it still is by the old incumbent firms – looks very different from some of the other markets in the European Union.

Against this background, initiatives such as UK-based Swuto are emerging, with a plan to help the consumer deal with the vast array of suppliers and available offers in Europe. Swuto took part in the second season of the Amsterdam-based Rockstart Smart Energy Accelerator during the first six months of 2015.

The Swuto website is due to be up and running in beta mode in October. The company goal is to be the “next generation energy supplier price comparison platform”. Why ‘next generation’? Because Swuto is planning to go beyond being a site for comparing the prices on offer from the various players in the market and actually enable customers to switch from one supplier to another whenever they wish to do so or – to be more precise – as soon as the algorithm finds a tariff that is an improvement on the current one. ‟What we spend on a daily basis is important to us. Who actually supplies our energy is of little importance,” argues Swuto founder James Winfield.

Swuto embodies the next generation of energy supplier price comparison platforms, helping customers through the process of changing supplier

Once registered with the platform, all you have to do is wait for the platform to scan the market on your behalf. As soon as it comes up with a significant price differential, you will receive a text notification with a proposal for switching suppliers. You simply confirm that you wish to switch and the change will go ahead automatically. So what about the cost of switching your supplier? The algorithm takes all this into account in its calculations. So the customer will have no additional hidden charges to pay.

According to Swuto founder James Winfield, there are about 1,100 energy suppliers competing on the European energy market, which suggests that there really is a need for an algorithm which calculates the cost of supplier-switching. The startup, which is today being mentored by Rockstart, took advantage of the Smart City Event to expand its operations into the Netherlands from its beginnings in Spain and Winfield’s home country, the United Kingdom.

By Pauline Canteneur