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The man who’s made a fortune helping set up SEVEN collapsed energy suppliers

At his golf club and in the boardroom – indeed anywhere that his £55,000 Jaguar takes him – Andrew Dyball enjoys an enviable reputation for success. 

But the smooth-talking energy consultant was uncharacteristically taciturn last week, and certainly in no mood to discuss the crisis crippling his industry.

That is perhaps unsurprising given The Mail on Sunday can today reveal that he is linked to several of the failed energy firms whose collapse has hit more than a million households.

Mr Dyball makes his money by setting up so-called ‘off-the shelf’ companies, mostly shell firms, and selling them for as little as £70,000 to aspiring energy suppliers. 

His clients, some with little or no experience of the industry, in turn sell utilities to households or businesses.

Andrew Dyball (pictured) is linked to several of the failed energy firms whose collapse has hit more than a million households, the Mail on Sunday can reveal

Two firms that have recently gone bust – Green and Utility Point – began in this way before being sold by Mr Dyball. His company boasts of helping establish more than 35 suppliers. 

Some of them have failed and others appear to be facing difficulties after missing payments to energy regulator Ofgem.

While Mr Dyball himself was reluctant to speak, his company Dyball Associates last night issued a statement on its website which defended its business model and said ‘only seven’ of the 29 energy firms that have collapsed since 2018 had been ‘supported by’ the firm.

Fifteen of the 70 firms with a licence to supply power list Mr Dyball as a current or former director and his involvement has been lucrative.

His firm recently turned a £3.6 million profit and, in addition to the top-of-the-range car, he owns a spacious home in a desirable Worcester suburb.

Now, however, the industry is in crisis. Six energy firms serving a total of 1.5 million customers have gone bust in recent weeks. Many more could follow, with experts predicting that the total number of suppliers could fall to as few as ten.

When an energy supplier collapses, its customers are transferred to another firm by Ofgem under its ‘supplier of last resort’ scheme. 

The man who's made a fortune helping set up SEVEN collapsed energy suppliers

Each customer costs the rescuing firm between £600 and £700 to take on, with those costs usually passed on via household bills. Bigger firms such as British Gas and EDF have been put under pressure by the Government and Ofgem to take on customers from failed firms.

A series of companies established through Dyball Associates are among those which have recently failed. 

They include Economy Energy, which owed £15.5 million for unpaid green levies and smart meters. Many of these failed firms re-emerge under a different name, in some cases again facilitated by the 63-year-old entrepreneur.

Mr Dyball was fined by Ofgem two years ago after an investigation found he had facilitated collusion between two supposedly rival firms.

Dyball Associates, E (Gas and Electricity) and Economy Energy were fined a total of £870,000, including £20,000 for Mr Dyball. Egel is still operating but Economy, which had 235,000 customers, went under shortly after being fined.

An Ofgem report into the way the three companies abused the market in 2016 said it involved ‘sharing commercially sensitive and strategic information, in the form of details of their customers.’

It added: ‘This agreement had as its object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition. Dyball was aware of the actual conduct planned and/or put into effect by Economy and E… Therefore, Dyball participated as a facilitator.’

Mr Dyball makes his money by setting up so-called ‘off-the shelf’ companies, mostly shell firms, and selling them for as little as £70,000 to aspiring energy suppliers

Mr Dyball makes his money by setting up so-called ‘off-the shelf’ companies, mostly shell firms, and selling them for as little as £70,000 to aspiring energy suppliers

The Dyball Associates website boasts that it can have a company run by a novice supplying energy in just four months. 

On Friday, the firm’s offices in Worcester were empty. The only sign that the company occupies the building were parking spaces reserved for Mr Dyball and other directors.

Mr Dyball names his off-the-shelf energy firms after US states and is currently director of companies including Utah Energy and California Energy. 

Green, which was providing energy to 360,000 customers when it failed last week, was originally called Virginia Energy, but the name changed when the directorship was transferred from Mr Dyball to Peter McGirr in February 2019. 

Green made losses of £14.2 million in the last financial year, its latest accounts show.

Avro Energy, another firm linked to Dyball, began trading in December 2015 and supplied energy to 580,000 customers before it failed last week. 

It was set up by Jake Brown, then a 20-year-old semi-professional footballer with no experience in the industry, and his father Philip. 

Avro Energy, another firm linked to Dyball, began trading in December 2015 and supplied energy to 580,000 customers before it failed last week. It was set up by Jake Brown, 27, (picutreD) with no experience in the industry, and his father Philip

Avro Energy, another firm linked to Dyball, began trading in December 2015 and supplied energy to 580,000 customers before it failed last week. It was set up by Jake Brown, 27, (picutreD) with no experience in the industry, and his father Philip 

Its last accounts show it made losses of £27.4 million while paying out £2.25 million in ‘management charges’ to another firm run by the Browns, who are also listed as current directors of two of Mr Dyball’s other companies: Dyball Holdings and Dyball Associates.

Another firm, Dorset-based Utility Point, joined the market in 2018 and supplied 220,000 customers – it ceased trading two weeks ago. 

Accounts show it lost £5.5 million in 2020. Utility Point was another of Mr Dyball’s off-the-shelf energy firms. He resigned his directorship and transferred it to current directors, Benjamin Bolt and Paul Yarwood, in 2017.

They run another energy supplier, Neon Reef, which was one of five small energy suppliers warned by Ofgem last week after missing a payment for a government environmental scheme. 

It was originally called Oregon Energy and Mr Dyball transferred the firm to the current directors in 2018.

Other firms with links to Mr Dyball have also missed payments to Ofgem, including Colorado Energy, which failed to pay £261,406. 

Another firm, Ampower, has been ordered not to trade power after failing to persuade the regulator that it is able to do so.

Another firm, Dorset-based Utility Point, joined the market in 2018 and supplied 220,000 customers – it ceased trading two weeks ago

Another firm, Dorset-based Utility Point, joined the market in 2018 and supplied 220,000 customers – it ceased trading two weeks ago

In its statement, Dyball Associates said: ‘Neither Andrew Dyball nor Dyball Associates are behind any electricity or gas supply business that has ceased trading. We have no shares, directorships, or salary from any failed business.

‘When off-the-shelf companies are created, Dyball Associates and Andrew Dyball are appointed as director/secretary to comply with Companies House regulations. Once an off-the-shelf supply business is sold both Dyball Associates and Andrew Dyball are removed from the company.

‘Since the start of 2018… 29 suppliers have entered the supplier of last resort process, of those failed suppliers only seven of them were supported by Dyball Associates. The others have been supported by our market competitors.’

Referring to the recent collapse of Utility Point and Green, the statement added: ‘Why these companies failed and what liabilities they leave behind is impossible for Dyball Associates to comment on.

‘Apart from providing software we have no involvement with the companies or how they are run.’

Ofgem said: ‘Over the last decade consumers have benefited from competition in the energy market, which has driven down prices.

‘However, we have also seen an increase in supplier failures and inadequate customer service in certain cases. Financial difficulty and poor customer service are often interrelated.’

Now tighten rules, say Big Six 

By Neil Craven, Deputy City Editor 

Britain’s biggest energy firms are pushing for stricter controls on new market suppliers after a string of firms went bust.

They argue that new regulations would help limit the financial fallout when bigger, more financially secure companies and their customers are forced to foot the bill for failing suppliers.

The recent collapse of smaller energy suppliers has left more than a million customers in limbo. Senior industry sources estimate the cost of mopping them up will be at least £1 billion, but warned that with as many as five million more still at risk, that could rise sharply.

When firms go bust, larger firms are asked to absorb customers, buying up extra gas supplies and passing some of the extra costs on to their own consumers. The price of providing this safety net could add more than £100 to the average annual bill. Executives at a number of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, ScottishPower and SSE – have asked the Government and Ofgem to subject new energy-market entrants to more stringent regulations that would prevent a future fallout.

‘We’ve got to the point where a couple of guys with a computer and a phone have been able to start up a new company – and the others are asked to step in when it all goes wrong,’ said a source.

 

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