British Gas is preparing to launch its so-called FreeTime tariff across the country this summer. Under this tariff plan, customers will be offered "free electricity" between 9am and 5pm on either Saturday or Sunday. The UK's biggest energy supplier hopes the move will stop its customers from shifting to cheaper rivals.
This tariff plan is, however, not new. It was introduced in 2013 and is said to have been trialling since then. The company has been losing customers for five consecutive years. In April, British Gas reported that it had lost 224,000 customer accounts between January and March 2016 alone. The move also follows Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the government regulator for electricity and natural gas in UK, lifting its restriction on the number of tariffs a power supplier can offer.
According to the company's website, some of the other features of this plan currently includes fixed tariffs even if its prices rise, smart meters installed for free, no exit fee or charge if a customer decides to change the tariff plan or exits the company and a £15 (€19.06, $21.55) dual fuel discount. Pamela Conway, head of Smart and Energy Efficiency Strategy at British Gas, told parliament members this month that its customers, who were on the FreeTime trial, were on average saving £60 a year, according to The Telegraph.
However, consumer experts have opined that this deal, which seems very attractive, could still turn out to be more expensive than some of the other tariffs that are currently available in the market. Tom Lyon, senior commercial manager at uSwitch.com, a comparison website, said while this plan that promises about £60 in average annual saving could appeal to customers, "its average standard variable customer would actually be £234 a year better off by switching to a deal from Sainsbury's Energy, which British Gas runs on behalf of the supermarket".
Apart from the difference in opinion about price savings, the FreeTime tariff has other restrictions as well. For instance, this offer is not applicable to those living in flats or in remote rural areas as the smart meter technology, which this tariff comes with, does not seem to work in these areas. Also, it is likely that there would be a cap on the amount of free power one can use. This is assumed because the company has already threatened its trial customers of revoking this tariff if they use an "unreasonably large amount of electricity" on those free days.