"We've got the power" say Cheltenham campaigners
CAMPAIGNERS hope to use their collective bargaining power to slash gas and electricity bills.
A growing number of householders across Gloucestershire are signing up to the national pressure group 38 Degrees' initiative The Big Switch.
38 Degrees, named after the angle at which an avalanche happens, aims to "enable people to act together to create an avalanche of change".
The group wants to target the big six energy giants – E.ON, npower, British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power Business and Scottish and Southern.
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It plans to send in expert negotiators from consumer group Which? to bargain with all gas and electricity suppliers to get the lowest prices.
Their trigger for action is 200,000 people registering their interest by March 31.
38 Degrees has 14,000 members from Gloucestershire, and 1,038 of them have signed up to The Big Switch.
Sophie Franklin, from Prestbury Road, Cheltenham, is urging more people to sign up.
"I moved from nPower to company Good Energy because it offered 100 per cent green energy and also bills were more competitive," she said.
"It's amazing the big six should be making so much profit while charging the consumers so much.
"While millions of people are officially affected by fuel poverty, it's time that some transparency was shown and the big six realised we're watching them."
She added: "The best way to beat them at their game is to switch to a cheaper provider. Your current provider will tell you it's complicated and not worth it, but if we all do it, they will soon feel the pinch."
Steve Thomas, from Park Place, Cheltenham, believed people power was the way forward.
"38 Degrees have rallied support to allow collective bargaining with energy companies. They need to be shown that customers need to be treated equitably and cannot be trampled over."
David Evans, from Priory Street, Cheltenham, said: "Aren't we all fed up with being ripped off by the gas and electricity companies?
"Our gas and electricity bill last quarter was over £800 – enough is enough."
Spokesman Becky Jarvis said: "Tackling gas and electricity bills was prioritised by our members in polls.
"We sent a petition to the Big Six a few months ago to lower bills, which had some success. But now we've decided to make a bigger gesture.
Responding to the campaign, Lucy Coyle of British Gas, said: "A constructive debate is needed around collective switching – it must serve consumers' long term interests.
"Pooling customer types to form a 'collective buying group' is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Tariffs vary by region, consumption and payment type.
"Energy customers increasingly want to benefit from deals tailored around their individual circumstances, for example, flexible payments, online account management and payment type."
For more details, and to sign up, visit www.secure.38degrees.org.uk/the-big-switch.