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Shell Energy up for sale: What now for two million utility and broadband customers?

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Shell Energy has put itself up for sale as it looks to exit the retail utility and broadband market in the UK. With nearly two million customers, here’s what you need to know if you’re one of them.

The provider has around 1.4 million energy customers and around half a million broadband account holders.

But for now, there’s no change for users, and so customers should continue to pay their bills as usual which will remain the same in price. Credit balances on energy accounts also remain protected.

Shell Energy is still accepting new customers for both energy and broadband, it confirmed.

As part of the sale, it will also exit the home energy retail business in the Netherlands and Germany, while its B2B wholesale and SME customer supply businesses are not impacted by the sale.

Shell said it had conducted a strategic review of its home energy retail businesses and the sales process is already underway, “with the intent to reach an agreement with a potential buyer in the coming months”.

A spokesperson added that the market conditions to deliver value from the home energy retail sector in the UK “have been challenging” for both the industry and customers.

A statement read: “More broadly in the UK, we are focused on helping transform the UK’s energy system. To make our investment plans a reality, we need a stable fiscal regime and the development of policy frameworks and business models.”

Shell added that the deal completion would be subject to the usual regulatory and other approvals and at this stage, it is not disclosing “confidential details” about a potential buyer as the sales process is still ongoing.

“Nothing will change for our customers during the sales process. We are committed to supporting both customers and staff and protecting customer interests during this period, and to ensuring a seamless transfer to a buyer capable of delivering on its obligations, including our intent to maximise employment,” the spokesperson added.

Disappointing or a relief?

Richard Neudegg, director of regulation at Uswitch.com, said: “The prospect of Shell Energy exiting the UK retail market may be worrying for its 1.4 million domestic energy customers and its half a million broadband customers, but it could take a while for any sale to be finalised.

“The business will continue to operate as normal until a sale has been approved and completed, and whatever happens, customers’ credit balances will be protected.

“Shell’s decision to exit the market is disappointing, as it has been a well-backed challenger to the larger energy suppliers.

“Broadband customers who are out of contract always have the option to switch without penalty. Those still within their minimum term may prefer to wait as it will take time for any acquisition to complete. If contract terms are changed significantly by a buyer, customers will have the right to leave early.”

Meanwhile Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, said on the broadband side of the business, it has had a “rocky time on the market” consistently generating the most complaints to Ofcom, “so some customers might be breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of moving”.

“For the time being, their broadband arm won’t be affected, so customers should be assured that they won’t see a drop in service or an increase to their bills.

“Shell Energy Broadband currently uses the Openreach network, so it is likely that any possible move in the future would be to another Openreach provider.

“Despite having its fair share of critics, the provider has offered some of the best value deals on the market and we hope to see that continue despite this potential takeover. If customer service can also be improved in the process, it would be greatly welcomed by its customers.”