Today we are starting a new column which we trust you will find useful: Saving Ninjas.

Saving Ninjas will become a regular part of our ‘Saving Lessons’ section and will feature practical and actionable advice from various sites and services in Australia, as well as leading individual experts in the Australian consumer scene that will help you, our valued Spending Hacker readers, to Spend Less & Get More.

In the first post of this series we are featuring One Big Switch and some great advice from their campaign director, Joel Gibson.

The best way to explain what One Big Switch is and how it operates is to compare them to group buying services such as Living Social or Groupon. However, instead of offering anything and everything (like these two sites do), One Big Switch focuses only on everyday products and services which are relevant to pretty much every single Australian and in the past has run campaigns around bank accounts, mortgages, electricity, health insurance and petrol.

Like the ‘traditional’ group buying services, One Big Switch leverages the power of large groups of potential new customers in order to get better deals for that group that might not have been available otherwise. This is done by collecting a list of consumers who are willing to switch from their current providers if offered a better deal elsewhere.

Once One Big Switch collects a list of interested customers and provided it is large enough (the bigger the better the potential offers could be), it engages in ‘collective bargaining’ of sort on behalf of the consumers who registered and faces various providers against each other in an effort to get consumers a better deal than what they are currently on and save them money.

Unlike the ‘traditional’ group buying services, there is no cost for consumers to register to any of One Big Switch‘s campaigns and there is also no obligation of any kind to take up any of the offers that they end up negotiating with providers. Unlike with Living Social or Groupon, consumers do not need to make an upfront buying decision.

In order to register to any of the campaigns One Big Switch runs, consumers need to provide their email, name and postcode and can also provide additional information on a completely optional basis.

One Big Switch does not collect any payment or credit card details from consumers who wish to register and all the personal details they collect are subject to their privacy policy. Being an Australian company, they are also bound by the Australian Privacy Act and its associated regulations.

And now for our interview with Joel Gibson, Campaign Director at One Big Switch

1. What is One Big Switch? What prompted you to start this service?

We started One Big Switch because we thought consumers could achieve so much more as a group than as individuals – not just by advocacy, as more traditional consumer groups have done, but by negotiating group discounts and exclusive offers using the People Power of hundreds of thousands of households.

2. How is One Big Switch differentiating itself from other group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social?

We focus on using the combined buying power of our 500,000+ members to cut the cost of major household bills. We prioritise non-discretionary spending – the bills you can’t avoid, rather than restaurant meals, massages and other discretionary items.

3. How did you choose the areas you are going to focus on?

We are led by our members and what they want. We started with a Big Bank Switch because interest rates were high and rising, and we have since tackled other bills that members say are hurting them – such as electricity, insurances, and most recently petrol.

4. What has been your most successful campaign and what do you attribute this success to?

Our biggest campaign was the Big Electricity Switch in 2012, but our Big Petrol Switch this year was also hugely successful, with 130,000+ households joining in just a few weeks. In both cases, consumers were angry about prices being high and government interventions that had driven them up even further and they didn’t want to just take it lying down.

5. Do you feel there is a lack of genuine competition in many areas of consumer life in Australia? If so, do you believe consumers themselves play a role in this lack of competition due to the decisions and choices they make?

There is insufficient competition in most industries, because most consumers are just too busy or too daunted to spend much time shopping around.

This is a greedy business’s greatest asset, because once consumers do shop around for themselves or join a network like ours, they learn to spot a raw deal from a hundred paces, and they realise their power to switch is their biggest strength (editor note: If you still have a false sense of loyalty to ANY of your current providers or your bank, you need to read this post and get over it ASAP!).

6. What can consumers do to increase the amount of choice they have? 

Consumers need to move from time to time when they see a good offer! If they don’t, then they’re discouraging choice and competition.

Reward the good businesses, punish the bad ones and push governments at every opportunity to increase choice and competition, because if consumers don’t demand it, Governments will often bow to vested interests.

7. We feel that this false sense of loyalty some consumers might have serves as an impediment for them and for others to enjoy better service, lower prices and more choice. Do you agree?

We agree. Often, loyalty makes you a sitting duck. Some businesses reward it, but many just exploit it.

8. What do you feel is the number one area every consumer can lower their expenses in right now by taking simple steps and without making significant changes in their lifestyle?

Every household has a power bill and electricity is quite easy to switch, so we recommend everyone make sure they’re getting a discounted plan.

The other big one is the interest rate on your mortgage: too many of us pay too much interest on our biggest bill because of misplaced loyalty to a big bank.

9. What ways can you suggest for people to feel more empowered as consumers? Other than your own site, do you have any other online or offline media you draw your inspiration from and can recommend for our readers?

  • Join One Big Switch, of course! 🙂
  • Read deal-sharing websites such as OzBargain
  • Read other forums (but take them with a grain of salt)
  • Use social media to share information because consumers are very powerful when they work together as a combined force.

10. What’s next for you at One Big Switch? What is the next major initiative you plan to launch?

We have just launched our latest campaign: the Big Cost of Living Switch.

In this campaign, we are looking for at least 25,000 Australian families to register so that we can work together to unlock group discounts and special offers in three household bills that cause families the most pain, according to research conducted by Choice: Petrol, Electricity & Health Insurance.

You can read more about it in our press release and also check this segment from Channel 7.

 

This concludes our interview with our first Saving Ninja, One Big Switch campaign director Joel Gibson.

 

Remember that participation in this campaign, like all the other campaigns by One Big Switch is both cost and obligation free. You can sign up here.

However, before you go ahead and do it, there are a few additional things we would like you to know about One Big Switch.

This is because we are always committed to bringing you the full picture and keeping you fully informed.

  1. One Big Switch is not a charity. They are a for-profit commercial enterprise backed by News Limited and Seven Media. They make money by getting referral commissions from the various providers for anyone of their members who joins as part of their switching campaigns. There is nothing wrong with that but we think it needs to be disclosed upfront so you understand their business model and why their service is free for you.
  2. One Big Switch will not necessary get you the absolute best deal! You might be able to do better by doing your own negotiating and haggling and also by using their negotiated offers to force your current or prospective providers to match or even beat them. Again, nothing wrong with that as anything that increases competition for consumers is a good thing in our books. You just need to know that once the offers of the current campaign are released, you need to shop around and see if you can get something better instead of just signing up without checking.For health insurance, we suggest you check this site as well as this mob before signing up for any offer from One Big Switch (where in both cases you could potentially get paid just for using the service) while for Electricity, we suggest you follow our simple step-by-step guide which you can get instantly by clicking the button below (unless you are already one of our subscribers in which case, you’ve either received it already or will get it in the next week or two)
  3. One Big Switch’s privacy policy allows them to disclose any personal information you provide to them (including your name and contact details) to third parties.  If you register for any of their campaigns, it means you automatically agree to this. Therefore, we strongly suggest you read section 7 of the policy (under the heading “Disclosure of your personal information”) first and see if you are OK with that.
  4. In past campaigns, One Big Switch has been accused by some of making potentially misleading claims during the course of their campaigns. While this is not to say that they are dodgy or fraudulent in any way (it might have been a case of simple misunderstanding) , it just further highlights the importance of you making your own independent research before taking up any of the negotiated offers. The information in point 2 above should allow you to do that quickly and easily, at least when it comes to any Health Insurance or Electricity offer they are able to negotiate.

 

Have you ever participated in any campaign from One Big Switch before? We would love to hear about your experience!

You can either answer our quick survey or share your experience in the comments box just below this post.

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Keep an eye out for our next Saving Ninja feature coming to our website (and your inbox if you’re a subscriber) very soon.

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