uSwitch

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uSwitch
Type PRIVATE
Industry Price comparison service
Founded 2000
Founder(s) George Mountbatten, 4th Marquess of Milford Haven
Headquarters Notcutt House,
36 Southwark Bridge Road,
London, SE1 9EU,
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7208 2929 / 0800 093 0607
Parent Lloyds Development Capital
Website www.uswitch.com

uSwitch.com is a UK-based price comparison service and switching website started in 2000. The site allows consumers to compare prices for a range of energy, personal finance, insurance and communications services. According to The Times, uSwitch is one of the two most established price comparison websites and has been highlighted as being among the best money-saving websites for students.[1]

Among the host of service uSwitch compares are gas, electricity, water, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products, heating cover and car insurance, with a number of new markets in the pipeline.

uSwitchforBusiness.com is uSwitch's energy price comparison and brokerage service for businesses.

uSwitch.com is accredited by Consumer Focus, the energy watchdog in the UK.

Business model[edit]

uSwitch.com is a free, impartial, online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance. In 2010 uSwitch.com celebrated its tenth anniversary. There are no direct costs to consumers for the service. The company receives commission from some suppliers when a customer chooses to switch through the uSwitch site.

uSwitch.com is the first comparison website to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, which is recognised as a standard that a website has clear language, is accessible and easy to use, and has been tested on a sample of its users. It also hosts a range of guides advising the public on how to save money. It also regularly releases research covering technology, the energy market and financial developments.

uSwitch.com is dedicated to helping consumers save money whether they have internet access or not. It offers a dedicated call centre, manned by uSwitch customer service representatives, as well as a freepost ‘Send us your bill’ service, whereby customers can post their latest energy bills with their telephone number. uSwitch then runs a comparison on the customer's behalf and contacts them with the details of any savings they could make.

Relationship with Consumer Focus[edit]

uSwitch played a role in the industry consultation which led to the establishment of a voluntary code of practice — the Energywatch Confidence Code (now known as the Consumer Focus Confidence Code) — in 2002.

Whilst uSwitch.com is accredited by Consumer Focus, the energy watchdog in the UK, the relationship between the two organisations has not always been harmonious. In September 2007, Consumer Focus found that information provided by uSwitch's energy price comparison website was 'biased and not impartial' and uSwitch were provided with notice that the Consumer Focus Confidence Code had been breached.[2]

The September 2007 minutes of the Consumer Focus Management Board Meeting, and press reports, show that the company was asked by Consumer Focus to change how it displays comparison results and information so that consumers can enjoy unbiased results.[3][4] The company complied with these requests and has remained accredited.

Company history[edit]

uSwitch.com was the brainchild of Lord Milford Haven. It was set up in September 2000 with an initial £4 million investment to take advantage of the UK’s deregulated gas and electricity markets. The company subsequently expanded into the telephony and communications markets in 2001. In the same year it also bought competitor buy.co.uk followed by local community information website UpMyStreet.com in 2003.

uSwitch.com was itself acquired by US media conglomerate, E.W. Scripps Company in March 2006 for £210 million ($366 million). The purchase added a second freestanding interactive media business to its portfolio alongside leading US product price comparison site, Shopzilla.[5]

In February 2008, E.W. Scripps Company recorded a $411 million pre-tax charge related to the uSwitch acquisition, contributing to an overall $256 million loss for Scripps in the last quarter of 2007. The scale of the writedown reflects more realistic revenue expectations due to lower than expected levels of switching.[6]

In December 2009, uSwitch was acquired by Forward Internet Group for $10.3 million in cash.[7] Forward is a privately funded collection of internet-based businesses focused on consumer engagement and innovation. Forward3D is the group's 3D search agency (formerly known as TrafficBroker) and Forward Innovations is the consumer division which focuses on price comparison and switching, including brands such as InvisibleHand and Omio.

In June 2011, uSwitch acquired the UK's most popular broadband and mobile phone comparison business previously known as Top10.com. Top10's broadband and mobile web content, deal comparison tools and speed tests were incorporated into uSwitch.com in July 2011. Top10.com was subsequently relaunched as a separate business by Top10's founders (Alex Buttle, Tom Leathes and Harry Jones) as 'The Top10 of Everything, Created by Everyone' which later evolved into a hotel price comparison website (officially launched October 2013)

2011 also saw uSwitch enter the Irish market with uSwitch.ie. uSwitch.ie operates in the same way as the UK but currently offers switching services for broadband, TV, phone and energy services and not insurance or financial services.

In August 2013, LDC backed an MBO of uSwitch, the private equity firm acquired a significant stake in the business with Forward Internet Group retaining a substantial minority holding. Both investors aligned with the existing management team who have a minority holding in the business. 

Partners and affiliates[edit]

uSwitch works with more than 130 direct partners and 2,000 affiliate partners, providing their web sites with co-branded comparison tools for a range of essential home services. uSwitch’s calculators also appear on many other websites.

Major partners include Yahoo, AOL, Wanadoo, Orange, Virgin Media, People’s Champion and Johnston Press.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Best money-saving websites for students". The Times (London). September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  2. ^ Management Board Meeting Minutes and Action Notes PDF, energywatch, 20 September 2007
  3. ^ Brignall, Miles (December 11, 2006). "uSwitch accused of misleading customers". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  4. ^ "uSwitch forced into website change". thisismoney.co.uk. September 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  5. ^ a b "Scripps acquires uSwitch". E. W. Scripps Company press release. March 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  6. ^ Scripps Files 10-K, Reports Final Fourth Quarter and Full-Year Results, MSN Money, February 29, 2008
  7. ^ Scripps Networks 10K March 1, 2010

External links[edit]