This summer it will be five years since we started serving our first members. We now have 1.7 million members and over 700 staff. The most important lessons we’ve learned over those five years have been about how to serve our members fairly and well, particularly our most vulnerable members. And about how we explain our services clearly and transparently.
Based on those lessons we’re making some changes. We’re improving our services for members in financial difficulty, and we’re changing our Terms and Conditions, so we can keep our prices low. We’re also updating our Price Principles so we can offer more price stability.
Financial help in 24 hours
We've always had a programme that can provide financial help for vulnerable members. It used to take at least 7 days to put in place – we can now do it in 24 hours. If you’re a Bulb member and your financial circumstances have changed, we can help you out.
Higher limits for Prepay
We've brought in five times higher credit limits on Prepay top up cards and keys for members who are self-isolating because of coronavirus.
Help with top ups
We've worked with local volunteer groups across the country to help traditional prepay members get their meters topped up. We created a special Facebook account so we could contact those groups. And we've sent more than 5,000 cards and keys to members who were unable to get to the shops to top up.
And we've been working closely with Energy UK and other suppliers on this too. The Government like the scheme and NHS volunteers now have the information to top up on behalf of prepay customers in self-isolation because of coronavirus. We’ve written simple instructions that might come in handy if you’ve been asked to help someone else top up.
Better help in an emergency
We've bolstered our Emergency Metering Team for those without electricity or gas in their home.
More resources devoted to service
During working hours, you can currently get hold of us within 2 minutes on phone or chat. And we've seen tremendous enthusiasm from members for using chat, so we've built new technology that lets us handle those contacts a lot more efficiently. If you do need to contact us then chat is a great choice. Wait times can be as low as 40 seconds and we’re now helping more members by chat than we are on the phone.
Terms and Conditions
Most of the changes in our Terms and Conditions are there to help us keep bills as low as possible by doing things like applying charges when people miss payments without talking to us first, or book an engineer and don’t let them in. Or if they repeatedly lose their prepayment card or key (we’ll let you off once…). There are also some clarifications around things like credit checks, debt recovery and what happens to your tariff if you move from prepay to credit (or the other way).
We recognise that this is a difficult time for our members, which is why we've improved the financial support we offer. We fully support the principles for managing energy debt caused by Covid-19 which we agreed with the Government a few months ago. We will introduce our new terms carefully over the summer and will always consider members' ability to pay when we apply them. We want to keep prices low so members don't get into debt in the first place because they're overpaying for their energy.
Here are the most significant changes:
More information about meter types and tariffs
We’ve made it clearer how your tariff will change when you change meter type or payment method. For example, if you have a prepayment meter you get a prepayment tariff, whereas if you have a credit meter you get a credit tariff.
New charges if you’re in debt and don’t reply to us
We’ll always communicate clearly with members and try to help them if they fall into debt. If we need to, we’ll be able to charge for some debt recovery costs so we can keep prices low for all our members. This could include charging interest on late payments, missed payment fees, debt collection fees, prepay meter installation fees and legal fees.
We’ve also made it clearer that we expect members to not be in debt and we may ask you for a security deposit if you are in debt.
Costs for avoidable meter works
We’re also introducing new charges for things that could have been avoided. This includes things like charges for losing prepay meter keys and cards, fees for booking an engineer and not letting them in and fees for replacing a working smart meter with a traditional meter. Accidents happen, so we’ve built some leeway into them for you. For example, we won’t charge you the first time you lose a card or key.
If you're a residential member, we may do soft credit checks with a credit reporting agency to ensure you are able to pay your energy bills. This is something most energy companies do and it won’t affect your credit score. We also reserve the right to send your payment history to credit reference agencies regardless of whether you are in credit or debt with us. This helps us to determine if members should pay a security deposit and allows us to keep prices down for everyone.
The past five years have also taught us a lot about how we manage and communicate about our prices so we’ve also decided to update our price principles. We’re as committed as ever to transparency and fairness but it’s also clear that many members value stable prices as much as marginal savings. So, from now on, while we will still monitor prices weekly we won’t change our prices more frequently than every three months.
Our price principles are now these:
1. No loyalty tax
We don’t tease and squeeze
Existing members pay the same tariff as new members
And we don’t charge exit fees – you’re free to leave us at any point
2. When there are savings to be made we pass them on to everyone
Every three months, if Bulb’s costs have fallen by more than £20 per year, so will your tariff
If costs rise, we work hard to limit increases to you and will always give 30 days notice
3. Radical transparency
We show how our tariff compares to all other suppliers on our website
We explain what we’re doing in plain English, not industry jargon
A real person is on hand to answer any questions you have
Phew. We hope that all made sense. As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts or feedback. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in on the Bulb Community.