How are RECCo and Crimestoppers working together to reduce energy theft?

Since 2005, Crimestoppers has been hosting their annual ‘Rewarding Partnerships’ event to acknowledge the valuable contributions made by all partners to their charity through funding and raising awareness. This year, our CEO, Sid Cox, was invited as a guest speaker at the event. As a company, we take great pride in collaborating with Crimestoppers to combat the issue of energy theft in the UK. In fact, earlier this year, we reported that energy theft costs consumers up to £1.4bn annually.

You can read Sid’s speech at this year’s event below. In this, he details the partnership with Crimestoppers, the scale of energy theft and the strategies we have planned to reduce energy theft in the future.

Read the speech in full

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Lord Ashcroft, for inviting me here this evening to explain how the Retail Energy Code Company (RECCo) and Crimestoppers work together to address energy theft, how our partnership operates and our strategies for combatting energy theft in the future.

Energy theft is a key priority for us at RECCo and the energy industry as a whole. It is important to be clear that Energy Theft is a crime and that it is a crime that has both financial and safety-related consequences.

Financially, the bill runs into hundreds of millions of pounds every year.  Our analysis and, indeed, Ofgem’s figures suggest that the losses due to energy theft are broadly comparable with those of supermarket shrinkage at around 2%.  However, while supermarkets are under competitive pressure to absorb these losses into their bottom lines and are therefore incentivised to tackle losses in their stores, energy theft does not directly impact energy suppliers’ bottom lines but is socialised across all bill-paying consumers, impacting everyone’s bills.  More importantly, people’s lives are put at risk through the dangers of tampering with electricity and gas supplies, which can result in electrocution, fire or even gas explosions.

Together our aim, with Crimestoppers, the energy industry and all like-minded individuals, is the three-pronged approach to improve energy

safety, reduce the incidence of energy theft, and relieve the consequential burden on consumers. This is all the more important while we are grappling with the cost-of-living crisis when people may be tempted to take drastic and potentially life-threatening measures to save money.

Background to RECCo and our partnership with Crimestoppers

For those who have not heard of us. The Retail Energy Code Company is an independent not-for-profit company responsible for overseeing the efficient and effective management of the retail gas and electricity market.  We provide and improve essential services to the industry.  For instance, we govern the Central Switching System, which makes it faster and more reliable for customers to change their energy suppliers.

The seventeen centralised services that we procure and manage include the Energy Theft Tip-Off Service and the Stay Energy Safe campaign. Crimestoppers run both of these services for us and enable members of the public to do the right thing and anonymously report suspected theft.

Crimestoppers plays a vital role and is a trusted voice. 24/7, 365 days a year, the relatively small team at Crimestoppers has a significant impact, obtaining tips offs, whether over the phone or online, writing reports and relaying these almost instantaneously to the right Energy Supplier or Network operator so that they may investigate potential cases. Last year, Crimestoppers had over 15,800 contacts with members of the public, generating over 30 actionable reports every day.

Current partnership activities, including the efficacy of the Stay Energy Safe campaign and generating leads with metrics

As noted by Lord Ashcroft, the partnership between the energy industry and Crimestoppers predates RECCo’s establishment.

Over the last two years, awareness of the Stay Energy Safe campaign has continued to grow, and we are pleased to report that the number of reports increased by 55% over last year, with a lead conversion rate of more than 75%.

However, our work in this area has only just started as the value of energy has soared, meaning the impact continues to increase.

The scale of Energy Theft and our Theft Reduction Strategies

In December 2022, we published our Theft Estimation Methodology for the market in Great Britain.  Based on wholesale prices at the time, our best estimate ranged between £800m to £1.4 billion, potentially adding up to an extra £50 per annum to consumer bills. So, even a marginal reduction in current levels could have a material benefit for consumers.

Having established the size of the prize, it is now incumbent on us all to address this challenge.  It is our intention at RECCo to continue working with Crimestoppers, industry parties and wider stakeholders to deliver a truly comprehensive Theft Reduction Strategy.

Informed by learnings from other sectors, the strategy will not just focus on detection but also on improving industry parties’ ability to respond effectively. Most importantly, given the inherent safety risks, we will continue to focus heavily on prevention while recognising that the outcomes of this are harder to quantify.

Extending potential areas of partnership with Crimestoppers

Part of our Plan for the future is to significantly deepen and improve awareness of the Tip Off service and Stay Energy Safe campaign and to plug into the broader Crimestoppers rewarding partnership’s network. Our work with Crimestoppers has shown that energy theft does not always happen in isolation and may be linked to other criminal activities such as drug cultivation and people trafficking.

Call to action possible future collaboration with police

Consequently, we are also calling for possible future collaboration and increased focus with the police. It is our intention to further explore the potential of harnessing new theft data analytics, as well as assessing the feasibility of a dedicated energy theft investigation service, possibly modelled on the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, to help target organised crime groups.  Such collaboration would also help combat the false advice shared on social media from those individuals offering what appears to be a legitimate service to vulnerable customers but which is a scam, placing their lives in danger.

Final thank you

We hope you will all join us in our mission with Crimestoppers in developing a more rewarding partnership. Together, we can help to make our communities safer, more sustainable, and better value for every bill paying one of us.  Thank you.

Find out more

You can find out more about Crimestoppers and their Rewarding Partnerships event here and read about our Energy Theft Reduction programme in full here.

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