The UK household electricity company Omni Energy has said it expects to become the 13th energy supplier to go bust this year, unless the gas price crisis eases before winter.
In an email to about 10,000 customers Omni said: “The cost of wholesale energy is continuing to rise and without significant change in the wholesale cost of energy, or a government intervention, it is highly likely Omni Energy will cease trading before the end of November.” The company told customers that it would switch them to a new supplier unless they objected.
Calls by the Guardian to a customer helpline were met by an automated message saying the service was responding only to emergencies.
Customers of energy companies that fail are usually moved to a new supplier by the energy regulator, Ofgem, through its “supplier of last resort” scheme. The system is understood to be under strain because of company failures affecting more than 2m accounts, with the City firm Teneo understood to have been put on standby by Ofgem to act as “special administrator” to run any larger suppliers that collapse. Nine energy suppliers collapsed in September alone.
In its email to customers, Omni said it did not think the supplier of last resort scheme was suitable for its model, under which customers pay in advance for electricity through a meter. It said its customers could be at increased risk of accidentally disconnecting themselves, being unable to receive support for meter problems, or being unable to access emergency credit to keep their lights on.
“To support you and to make sure we minimise the impact to you we recommend that you switch to another supplier as soon as possible,” it said. “To facilitate this we have a switching partner that is going to switch your energy to another supplier that is at the price cap like us. They will select an energy provider who is better placed to supply your energy.
“If you don’t want this to happen, please let us know by responding to this email so that we can work with you to minimise any impacts of us potentially ceasing to trade.”
The company is understood to have begun switching customers to rival suppliers, including Bulb and Scottish Power. Omni Energy said, however, there was “still hope that we may survive”.
The Guardian has approached Omni Energy and Ofgem for comment.