Startup Spotlight: uSwitch.com gives you the power

Reckon you pay too much for gas, electricity and mobile phone calls? Check out what some other companies would charge you

ZDNet readers looking to save money by changing their electricity or gas provider, or by moving to a different mobile network operator, might benefit from a visit to uSwitch.com. Thanks to recent deregulation, householders have a fair bit of choice as to where they get their gas and electricity from. Phoning round several companies to find out which one gives you the best deal is, however, rather time-consuming. With Uswitch.com, all you need to do is give details of where you live, your current supplier, and roughly how much you pay each quarter at the moment. Uswitch.com then comes up with estimated costs and savings from a number of suppliers in your area. If you like what you see, you can switch to a new supplier online. In testing, ZDNet found predicted savings of up to £50 a year on an £80 per quarter electricity bill -- so those of you with large houses could make significant reductions. Most utility companies seem to have signed up with uSwitch, although it's not possible to change to Powergen, for example. According to Keith Eden, chief executive officer at uSwitch, customers like the fact that they're in control of the process. "I think people prefer to log on and check these things out for themselves, rather than being harangued by a salesman on their doorstep. We find that users typically return to Uswitch two or three times, checking out the prices, before deciding to change suppliers," he said. USwitch also gives information about changing to a new mobile phone tariff. You can either search for the best tariff prices across all the networks, or examine how much it would cost to move to a new operator but keep an existing mobile number. Despite the boom in mobile phones in the UK -- latest estimates are that there are 40 million users -- 80 percent of uSwitch's business is on the power side of things. Eden claims this is because of the pricing policies of the mobile companies. "We get lots of people looking into changing their network, but it's much harder to switch tariffs, because network operators make it difficult. Many users, when they see the problems, decide to get a new tariff with their current supplier," he said. USwitch makes money by acting as a broker, and charging a fee from a company every time it transfers a customer to them. Despite the obvious benefits of the Web, Eden explained that some enterprises still haven't got to grips with the business potential. "Some companies are into e-commerce, and swiftly grasp the potential of the Internet. With others, it's much harder". The key to uSwitch's long-term success would seem to be to increase the number of services it offers. Eden agrees, and explained that the company hoped to offer a total of eight different services. "The next option we launch will let users search for cable TV suppliers in their area," he announced. The service: uSwitch.com
What it does: Provides information and advice about choosing and changing between gas, electricity and mobile network providers
Who it's for: People looking to pay less for home services
The verdict: Does a good job, but would benefit from adding extra services Startup Spotlight brings you the best and worst new Web sites every week. Click here to see previous Spotlights. See techTrader for the latest technology investment news, plus quotes and research. Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.