Andrew Salmon: A figurehead of the UK's consumer empowerment movement
Andrew Salmon was one of the founders and ex-CEO of uSwitch.com, one of the first price comparison websites in the UK.
At the turn of the century, the world was unaware of the power consumers would command a few short years later, when the ability to compare prices and choose who provided their energy landed at their fingertips. Comparison sites like uSwitch.com are now a fundamental part of the fabric of consumerism in the UK. Most Brits would never consider purchasing or renewing any form of service without first browsing available options online and comparing the various offers and prices.
But rather than trawling the web and collating this data themselves, dozens of results are a few clicks away, thanks to the advent of price comparison sites.uSwitch.com was one of the first of these websites. At the time it was founded, in 2000, when the notion of comparison sites was still a novelty, there was relatively little competition in the price of gas and electricity tariffs, and prices were considerably higher as a result.
Fast forward six short years and uSwitch.com was sold to EW Scripps, a US company that snapped the site up for a staggering £210m. The success of the sale only served to highlight the incredibly strong position that uSwitch had come to occupy in the market, despite still being a start-up.
For uSwitch's chief executive, Andrew Salmon, it was certainly a landmark moment. Along with the other major shareholders in the company, Lord George Milford Haven and Vipul Amin. Andrew Salmon established uSwitch.com as a 'consumer champion'. All this due to the simple fact that uSwitch.com saved British consumers substantial sums of money on their energy bills, comparing all available tariffs in one place, impartially and with minimum hassle for the end-user.
But how exactly did Andrew Salmon, the former corporate financier at PricewaterhouseCoopers, along with Lord George Milford Haven and Vipul Amin, achieve such success with uSwitch.com in just six short years?The answer is deceptively simple: deregulation.
uSwitch.com was founded at a time when deregulation was just coming into play, capitalising on the fact that UK consumers could change their energy supplier and find a better deal for the first time. uSwitch was exactly the right online tool, emerging at exactly the right time, it filled a gap in the market and built a proposition that appealed to consumers.
The launch of the website provided consumers with a tool that was extremely simple to use and enabled anyone to save money by following an extremely user-friendly and natural process. The beauty of the site was that it wasn't selling anything. It's an entirely free tool for consumers to use, ensuring they not only saved money but that the process didn't cost them a penny.Having such comparison sites on the market proved to be the shake up that was needed among energy providers. Competition started to heat up for the first time, and to win and retain business, energy providers had to offer better deals.
Consumer confidence grew, the market boomed, and Andrew Salmon and his fellow 'uSwitchers' found themselves in possession of an extremely hot commodity.
Speaking around the time of the sale to EW Scripps, Andrew Salmon commented: "Comparison shopping is already popular with consumers, but there is still ample room for growth." Salmon's words proved to be rather prophetic, as both sides of the pond would soon find themselves in the grips of a recession, and both UK and US consumers became increasingly concerned with shopping around for the best energy prices.