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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Online cost comparison gets easier
uSwitch marketing director Victoria Lord, chief executive Keith Eden and finance director Adrian Eaglestone
uSwitch services: Mobile phones, electricity and gas
One of the great things about the internet is that it offers consumers ways to save money.


We are the consumer's champion

Victoria Lord
uSwitch
Websites constantly appear claiming all sorts of special deals, from big savings on books and CDs through regular e-tailers to specialist sites offering cut-price utility supplies.

There are several online firms which claim to offer UK consumers big savings on their gas, electricity and phone bills but one - uSwitch - says it offers more.

uSwitch says it provides a truly impartial comparison of gas, electricity and mobile phone services available in the UK.

uSwitch marketing director Victoria Lord
uSwitch marketing director Victoria Lord
This might not sound revolutionary, but marketing director Victoria Lord says what differentiates it from its competitors - such as Servista, Buy.co.uk and Blay's Guides - is that it covers all available tariffs from all suppliers and it also lists service performance.

"Virgin and Servista rebrand and distribute energy bought in bulk from other suppliers, while companies like Buy.co.uk, Blay's and Kura offer the consumer limited choice," she says.

"We not only compare all available deals but the consumer can change supplier right there on our website."

She says uSwitch is free, totally consumer focused and completely impartial.

The aim, she says, is not to find ways of saving money and pass only some of that on to the consumer while keeping the rest.

The idea is to give the consumer access to complete information on what each of the country's suppliers would charge, at any given time, and allow easy transfer between services.

Can it work?

So how are they funded and how will they make money then?

The site has been set up with money from "private investors" and a second round of funding is planned for early next year to pay for expansion.

uSwitch receives a commission from the service suppliers for every user who signs up to them via uSwitch's site.

Victoria Lord insists that the level of commission does not in any way affect the way the supplier is represented on uSwitch's website.

But clearly they will need a lot of traffic if they are to survive.

This will be generated, she says, by expanding into other "home services", such as telephone and internet service provider comparisons.

Dear Bill campaign

To help things along, uSwitch has launched a campaign called "Dear Bill".

It wants disgruntled consumers to contact it with details of their bad experiences with utility companies.

It says it will then take their case to the relevant supplier or advise them about alternative services.

The aim, it says, is to improve customer care and reduce bills across its whole range of services.

uSwitch has estimated that if half the domestic users in London alone were to change gas and electricity supplier, in total they would save more than 300m a year.

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