First Utility

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First Utility
Industry Utilities
Founded 2008
Headquarters Coventry, United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Colin Crooks, Chief executive
Products Gas & Electricity
Owner Royal Dutch Shell
Website www.first-utility.com

First Utility is a supplier of gas and electricity in the United Kingdom, based in Coventry. In October 2013 the company was ranked as the seventh largest supplier in the UK, making it the largest outside the Big 6.[1] By September 2014 the company had a market share of 2%.[2][3]

Unlike the Big 6, the company does not generate electricity, instead purchasing it from international markets. The company has a relationship with Shell, which sees it act as an intermediary to purchase wholesale energy on the global market.[4] Shell reached an agreement to purchase the company in December 2017, and completed the acquisition in February 2018. First Utility now forms part of Shell's New Energies division.

History[edit]

First Utility previous logo

The company was launched in 2008 by co-founders Mark Daeche, Darren Braham and Marcus Citron as a spin-out from First Telecom.[1][5] In January 2012, the company appointed the former lastminute.com CEO Ian McCaig as its new CEO.[6]

In January 2014, the company signed a three-year deal to become title sponsors of the Super League.[7]

In September 2014, the firm announced it was considering an initial public offering or outside investment to fund foreign expansion.[8]

In September 2015, the company announced an expansion into Germany to be branded as Shell.[9]

In September 2015, Reuters reported that First Utility had doubled customer numbers in three of the last four years, adding 275,000 customers in the year of July 2015.[10]

Shell reached an agreement to buy the company in December 2017,[11] and the deal was completed on 28 February 2018.[12]

Technology[edit]

Being a small new entrant to the market allowed the company to experiment with new technology without the burden of having to migrate large numbers of customers from legacy systems.[13] The company was the first in the UK to offer smart meters to its residential customers.[14][15] This also gave the company experience of a large smart meter roll-out programme.[16] The company has partnered with various other providers including oPower and Google PowerMeter to provide customers with access to usage data.[17]

Customer relations[edit]

Ofgem issued a disciplinary order against the company in December 2010 [18] for failing to protect vulnerable customers.[19][20]

In April 2012 the new chief executive Ian McCaig said:

"Of course rapid growth brings additional demands, particularly on our customer service. As I mentioned above there are, however a range of things we are doing to make sure our customer service is meeting your needs at all times. We have: Increased our customer-facing staff by over a third in recent months and we are continuing to grow the team." ... "Introduced a new email management system, which helps us group queries and provide faster response times. Since implementation response times have improved by 50%. We're going to be on top of this very soon and your email service will improve. I want to apologise if you have had delays in us responding to emails." ... "I know that as a growing business we haven't delivered the best customer service at all times but I can see real improvements happening every day. With the initiatives listed above, and the improvements we're making, our aim is to deliver the best customer service the industry has to offer."

— Ian McCaig, Covering letter on bills sent to First Utility customers April 2012

Energy Saving Advice[edit]

In 2014, the company received criticism for the tone of its energy saving advice. When it was reported that Shadow Energy minister Tom Greatrex had said the advice was an “insult” to millions of people, the company's reported response was that “These tips are meant to provide some advice on how we might reduce our energy usage and absolutely not intended to trivialise the issue of fuel poverty, something we take very seriously.” [21][22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cave, Andrew (19 October 2013). "First utility boss: bills could double in the next 10 years". The Daily Telegraph. 
  2. ^ Christie, Sophie (10 September 2014). "First Utility attracts 1m customers – why?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Read, Simon (7 September 2014). "Energy giants face challenge as rival First Utility signs up a million accounts". The Independent. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Gosden, Emily (9 December 2013). "First Utility eyes lower bills with Shell energy deal". The Daily Telegraph. 
  5. ^ "Fast Track 100 - First Utility". Fast Track. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Energy minnow seeks big name". The Independent. London. 13 February 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Super League agrees new three-year sponsorship deal". BBC Sport. 21 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Schaps, Karolin (7 September 2014). "UK's First Utility eyes IPO to fund expansion". Reuters (Press release). 
  9. ^ Gosden, Emily (30 September 2015). "First Utility launches in Germany - branded as Shell". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Schaps, Karolin (23 September 2015). "UK's small energy suppliers gain market share from 'big six'". Reuters UK. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Vaughan, Adam (21 December 2017). "Shell to supply energy to UK households after takeover of First Utility". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2017. 
  12. ^ https://www.shell.co.uk/media/2018-media-releases/shell-completes-acquisition-of-first-utility.html
  13. ^ "A smart approach to energy retail pays dividends for First Utility". Utility Week. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "First Utility appoints Siemens to deliver nationwide consumer Smart Meter programme". PR web. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "First:utility makes Smart Meters available for free". Energylinx. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "First:utility warns of smart meter pitfalls and tightening targets". BusinessGreen. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "First Utility to lower energy bills with smart grid software". GreenwiseBusiness. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  18. ^ "Provisional Order under Section 25(2) of the Electricity Act 1989 and Section 28(2) of the Gas Act 1986" (PDF). Ofgem.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Mason, Rowena (9 January 2011). "First Utility 'failing to protect vulnerable'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  20. ^ "First Utility's vulnerable customer policy is 'not fit for purpose'". The Guardian. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  21. ^ Tobin, Lucy (3 January 2014). "Energy firm First Utility suggests clients give up tea and shower with other people to cut costs". The Independent. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  22. ^ Poulter, Sean (3 January 2014). "Shower together, cut out cuppas and go to bed early: Money-saving tips from energy firm that hiked bills by 18%". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 

External links[edit]