Established by the founders of Virgin Mobile, Pure Planet is one of the UK’s first “app-only” energy supplier and are using innovative technology and an alternative pricing model to offer customers cheap green energy. Not only do they claim to sell energy at wholesale prices with 0% mark-up, they’ve also ditched call centres in favour of “WattBot” - an app-based chatbot that is supposed to use artificial intelligence to assist you via your smartphone. Let’s see how the balance between price and customer service stacks up.
In our Pure Planet review we look at all the key aspects of this unconventional supplier, including their customer service, tariffs, pricing and account management, to help you decide if they’re worth switching to or not.
Pure Planet at a Glance
- Electricity: 100% renewable
- Gas: 0% green gas (100% carbon offset)
- Based: Bath, UK
- Founded: 2016
- Customers: 30,000
- A cheap green energy provider
- Innovative app-based service
- Sells energy close to wholesale prices
- No daily standing charge (Membership fees instead)
- No exit fees
Pure Planet Review
Interested in finding out more about this technology focussed supplier before you switch? In our independent review we give you the lowdown on all things Pure Planet.
1. Customer Service
When it comes to needing help from your supplier’s customer service, you would normally expect to speak to someone in a call centre, or for your query to be dealt with via email if it isn’t as urgent. But Pure Planet has flipped the usual way of doing things on its head, and instead help the vast majority of their customers entirely through their smartphone app.
Pure Planet have ditched the call centre altogether and do not offer any phone numbers or email addresses whatsoever. Their reasoning for this is that not having a call centre or a large support staff means they can operate with lower costs, and therefore pass on these savings with lower tariff prices.
Instead, customers can use the Pure Planet app to chat with an automated bot called “Wattbot”. Customers simply type in their enquiry and the bot replies with an answer automatically. The idea is that the app’s artificial intelligence should be able to answer most queries, which removes the need for a call centre. This is a pretty standard cost-cutting practice. However, for any questions the app can’t help with, customers can request a callback or email from a (human) member of staff to get their issue resolved.
It looks like Pure Planet prefers that customers self serve first by finding the information they need on the company website or app first. “Wattbot” seems to little more than a help centre search tool with a friendlier and more personable interface to encourage customers to search for answers to their energy queries on their own. However, if serious issues do occur humans still are the last resort to finding a solution.
The question for prospective customers is whether having to go through the hassle of requesting a callback from a support agent instead of being to call one up on the fly is acceptable to them. Does this practice result in better customer service or does it just add another hoop for the customer to jump through.
Pure Planet Reviews
This novel approach has been met with a mixed response from Pure Planet reviews online. Whilst some customers have embraced the concept, others have been left frustrated at not being able to speak to someone over the phone. More importantly, many people had not realised this would be the case before they switched.
Nevertheless, customers appear generally satisfied with the quality of the app and the support it provides. Others were also pleased with the ease of the signup steps, and that they were kept informed by email throughout the switching process.
“Just switched seamlessly from Octopus Energy. App gave a countdown and received various emails along the way with updates, all very straight forward. Highly recommended!”
However, there is a vocal customer contingent that has felt quite the opposite and been left annoyed at the lack of support staff, frustrated with the app not working as they expected it would and, ultimately, left in the lurch without a quick solution to their issues. Others appear to have misunderstood the concept of an app-only supplier, and have left angry reviews about the lack of contact details, which leads us to believe Pure Planet could do a better job to set realistic expectations for those customers.
“Worst customer service I've EVER experienced. They expect you to talk to the useless wattbott thing on their app which can never ever resolve your query. They don't give a crap about their customers. Stay well away.”
This last review clearly shows the impact of relying solely on technological solutions to provide customer service when it comes to energy queries. Customers like Keith feel ignored which leads to distrust, something that all service companies, such as energy providers, should aim to avoid. While “Wattbot” can be a great resource for tech-savvy customers and early adopters it cannot be expected to effectively serve a large majority of the British public who is still very much in the dark on many energy billing and supply questions.
Overall, the customer service picture is a mixed bag because Pure Planet offers very little customer service in the traditional sense. Whether you are happy to rely on an app to solve all your queries comes down to personal preference. For those of us that use our smartphones to manage our daily lives anyway, it shouldn’t be much of an issue, and paying less for energy is probably worth the sacrifice.
2. Tariffs & Prices
Pure Planet has had some of the lowest energy prices in the UK. This is because they claim to sell energy at wholesale cost, which is supposed to be the same cost that all suppliers pay and usually “mark up” with a profit margin to ensure they make money. Pure Planet instead sells energy on for the exact same price they pay for it.
The provider goes as far as having a bold “Zero Markup” claim right on the front page of their website where they state that they offer a “fair price”. Does this mean Pure Planet is selling at cost? A a closer look is necessary.
They also don’t charge a daily standing charge - a fixed amount suppliers charge per day regardless of energy usage. So how do they make any profit? Well, instead they make their money by charging a flat monthly membership fee of £8.00 per fuel, per month. The question for them and the handful of suppliers that have gone with this pricing model, another being Outfox the Market, is whether this is little more than a rebranding of the usual standing charge or whether it does actually benefit their customers.
To keep things simple, they also only offer the one tariff named the “100% Green” tariff. Our research in November 2019 showed that a family of four living in a three bedroom house in London, with average usage (3,100 kWh electricity and 12,500 kWh gas), would pay just £964 per year on this tariff for both utilities.
In comparison, Bulb quoted £1,012 per year, Bristol Energy came out at £1,008 per year and Tonik quoted £998 per year for equal usage at the same address. So while in the past Pure Planet has been almost £200 a year cheaper than most other renewable suppliers, at the time of writing that gap has narrowed down to anywhere between £34 and £48 cheaper a year. This begs the question of whether it’s worth giving up regular customer service over the phone for about two quid less a month.
|Bulb||Bristol Energy||Tonik Energy||Pure Planet|
|Average cost per year for 3 bed house in London||£1,012||£1,008||£998||£964|
Prices correct as of November 2019
While the Pure Planet pricing may have been extremely competitive last year, with some online reviewers claiming huge savings compared to their previous suppliers, those savings don’t seem to hold up this year.
“I have several friends who have moved across since myself and love the service and cost overall compared to the big six - £600 saving a year - it’s a no brainer!”
Another key factor to be aware of is that Pure Planet only offers a variable tariff, where the unit rates and membership fee can ch ange from one month to the next. Meanwhile the competitors that stacked up Pure Planet against for this comparison are all offering fixed rate tariffs (sort of like fixed rate mortgages) where the unit rates and standing charges are locked in for at least a year. That peace of mind is a very tempting value proposition.
Having said all that, it’s worth noting that based on average use, Pure Planet is still £292 cheaper than the Ofgem price cap which currently stands at £1,254.
3. Bills & Account Management
As mentioned above, to manage their account customers must do everything through the Pure Planet app. Customers receive monthly email statements along with PDF copies showing energy usage and how much they’ve spent. Customers can also check their bills from within the app and in keeping with their 100% digital ethos, they don’t offer paper statements by post.
Submitting meter readings, you guessed it, is also done within the app by simply tapping in the numbers to send them to Pure Planet HQ. The app even comes with a handy torch button if your meter is located in a dark cupboard.
While these quality of life touches are appreciated, it is surprising that such a technology-forward energy supplier is not leveraging smart meters to improve their operations. At the same time, having seen some of the mishaps of the rollout, we can’t judge Pure Planet too harshly.
Based on what the feedback we have seen, customers are generally satisfied with using the app to manage their account, view bills and submit meter readings. Numerous reviewers on websites such as Trustpilot have claimed the app is well designed and simple and offers everything they need. This is clearly crucial for a company like Pure Planet that thrives on leveraging the convenience of technology to attract new customers.
“The app is really easy to use and makes it so easy to monitor usage and submit readings.”
However, looking at Pure Planet app store reviews, the general opinion is quite the opposite. The Google Play store shows an average rating of just 2.8 out of 5 from 228 reviews (November 2018) and the Apple App store rates the app at 3.2 out of 5, from 104 ratings. These certainly aren’t good ratings for a company that relies entirely on the quality of their app to serve their customers.
Numerous reviewers have stated that the login link often fails to work, and that signing up on the app is difficult, whilst others can’t submit meter readings. Others have complained that the app often displays errors and has a lot of bugs and technical issues.
Login is clearly going to be a pain point and Pure Planet needs to put in the work to make the experience as seamless as possible. A potential hassle-free solution could be based around text messaging a PIN to a registered phone in order to facilitate entry into the customer’s account.
“This App is rubbish. I'm unable to login, it simply goes round in circles sending me registration emails which fail with 'Invalid Login Link' error message. Not impressed.”
Whilst we feel the app-only account management concept has potential, clearly this only works if the app is well designed, reliable, and easy to use for all users. There may be plenty of happy customers overall, but there are just as many unhappy online reviewers that have experienced too many bugs and problems with the app. So in short, great concept, not-so-great execution.
All things considered, we are fans of Pure Planet and their innovative approach to making energy bills cheaper through the use of technology and alternative pricing models. Their prices have gone from being extremely competitive to now being more in line with other renewable suppliers. We also feel the app has real potential, once the technical issues are fixed. But until then, we rate Pure Planet three out of five.
About Pure Planet
Next, let's take a look at the company, its ethos, history, and the key people involved.
Mission & Ethos
Pure Planet were established with the mission of making “a renewably powered Britain” by making renewable energy more affordable and more accessible to British households. To achieve this they decided to sell energy close to wholesale cost with supposedly zero markup. They only make a profit from charging a monthly membership fee. As a result, customers get access to the cheapest possible energy supply and Pure Planet still make a profit.
They are also set up to be entirely digital to reduce running costs, and were the UK’s first app-only supplier. This means no expensive call centre, fewer staff and all customer service handled by artificial intelligence, through the Pure Planet mobile app and the automated chatbot.
They also believe in looking after their staff and running a happy workplace. They not only follow the Living Wage scheme to ensure staff are paid fairly, but also aim to recruit disabled people and those with health conditions to ensure positions are open to everyone. In fact, they were shortlisted for the “Happiest Workplace” award at the Wylde IA Happiest Workplace Competition - an award for companies “that go the extra mile to ensure their staff are cheerful and fulfilled.”
Pure Planet has also made strides to offset carbon emissions generated by their employees when they commute to work. This may have been facilitated by the fact that BP has purchased a 25% stake in the company as part of the energy giant’s initiative to cut down on carbon emissions.
“We’re motivated by a triple bottom line: people, planet, as well as profit.”
Pure Planet App
As an app-only supplier, Pure Planet require customers do everything through a smartphone including: submitting meter readings, managing their account, paying bills and even contacting customer services.
The Pure Planet app uses artificial intelligence and an automated chatbot system called “WattBot”. When customers have a question, they simply type a message on the app and the WattBot artificial intelligence system will reply with a message, hopefully in the same way a member of staff would. If the customer cannot get the answer they need from the bot, they can ask to be contacted by a member of staff by phone or email as a last resort.
The WattBot system is being constantly improving and to make it more intelligent over time in order to be able to answer more detailed and complex questions from customers. By having this slick technology answer customer queries, they can function without a traditional call centre and the rent, overheads and staff costs that come with it.
Pure Planet was launched in the spring of 2017 by a team of former Virgin Mobile founders including Andrew Ralston, Steven Day, Tom Alexander and Chris Alliott. This tech dream team also set up popular network EE and also previously ran Orange and T-mobile.
Together, they came up with the idea to launch an affordable renewable energy supplier that uses technology to ensure low price, and partnered with BP to finance the business. BP own 25% of Pure Planet and handle the sourcing of renewable energy for their customers.
In 2018, another mobile network expert, Bryn Jones, joined Pure Planet as their chief technology officer to further develop the app and improve the WattBot AI system. In 2018, Pure Planet also reached 30,000 customers, just a year after launching.
Pure Planet will periodically run referral schemes where their customers can refer others to the company and receive a reward. Generally what happens is that when a customer refers a friend or family member through a unique link then both parties will receive anywhere between £25 and £50 each in Amazon vouchers.
Pure Planet's Renewable Energy
Next up, lets take a look at where their energy is sourced from and how much of it is clean and renewable.
Pure Planet supply 100% renewable electricity to all their customers. Their partners BP buy renewable electricity from a range of suppliers on their behalf - made up of a mix of wind power, solar power and hydropower.
Currently, Pure Planet do not publish much information about the energy they purchase when compared to companies such as Bulb, who like to promote the various solar and wind farms they use. However, Pure Planet is keen to state that their energy mix for last year was made up of over 80% wind power and almost 20% solar energy. Nevertheless they do promote the fact that their energy is certified by the Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) scheme - an Ofgem regulated scheme that serves to prove that the energy generated is from renewable sources.
Did you know?
As with all suppliers providing 100% renewable electricity, Pure Planet customers receive the same electricity from the National Grid - a melting pot of electricity sourced from renewable and non-renewable sources. However, for every unit of electricity their customers use, Pure Planet guarantee to generate or buy and put back an equal amount into the grid that was renewably-sourced.
As renewable energy generation and usage increases in the future, the percentage of renewable electricity customers receive from the grid will increase. Therefore Pure Planet and other suppliers are helping to increase the renewable portion of the UK’s electricity.
Pure Planet don’t supply renewable gas in the form of green gas generated from biofuels. However, they do commit to offset the harmful carbon dioxide generated from their customers’ gas usage by buying “CERs”, or Certified Emissions Reduction certificates. CERs are issued by an organisation called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to greenhouse gas projects in developing countries. These projects earn one certificate for each metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO₂) they remove or prevent from entering the earth’s atmosphere. These can then be sold on to companies worldwide who want to use it as a way to offset their own emissions.
Pure Planet buy these certificates to compensate for the emissions that the gas they sell creates. The certificates are uniquely numbered and once bought, then become invalid and cannot be sold on again, since the CO₂ saving has already been made. This money then helps to fund future emission-saving projects which continue to reduce emissions, meaning new certificates are earned and sold, and the cycle continues.
As a result of buying CERs, Pure Planet have prevented over 35,000 tonnes of CO₂ from being emitted into the atmosphere.
Pure Planet Tariffs
Pure Planet offer just the one "100% Green tariff" for both dual-fuel and electricity-only customers. It is a fairly cheap renewable energy tariff especially when compared to the price cap set by Ofgem, and it includes 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon-offset green gas.
Here are Pure Planet's prices for a typical 3 bedroom home in London. This is based on the UK average annual energy usage of 3,100 kWh of electricity and 12,500 kWh of gas.
|100% Green tariff (Electricity)||100% Green tariff (Gas)|
|Type of tariff||Variable||Variable|
|Renewable energy (electricity or gas)||100%||0% (but 100% carbon offset)|
|No Exit fees|
|No Minimum term|
|Unit rate||13.125p per kWh||3.161p per kWh|
|Membership fee (Standing Charge alternative)||£8.00 per month||£8.00 per month|
|Total yearly cost (3 bed house London)||£964|
Since last year, Pure Planet has hiked up its electricity rates by a couple of pence per unit while the gas one has remained pretty much the same.
One bit of good news is that their monthly membership fee (or standing charge, if you prefer) has gone down by 50p a month. It also looks like Pure Planet is now offering a yearly £30 discount for customers on a dual fuel tariff.
Pure Planet Business Tariffs
Currently, Pure Planet do not offer any business-specific energy tariffs. However, if you are looking for greener business energy, Npower do have some business tariffs that are worth a look.
Contact Pure Planet
Pure Planet made the decision to be 100% app-based in order to save money on running a call centre and pass on savings to customers. As a result, they don't provide a phone number or email address to contact them.
The only way to contact Pure Planet is to use the in-app chat feature. However, for more specific enquiries the app will forward you to a member of the customer service team. You can also try the Pure Planet community forum to find an answer to your problem.
Pure Planet Contact Number
Pure Planet do not offer a phone number. Download their app to contact them.
Pure Planet Ltd, Northgate House, Upper Borough Walls, Bath, BA1 1RG
Should you Switch to Pure Planet?
If you’re looking to switch to a fairly cheap green supplier, you’ll find that Pure Planet is fairly competitive though other renewable energy providers are not resting on their laurels. Plus if the idea of doing everything by app with no humans at hand to solve your queries doesn’t put you off, then Pure Planet could be worth a look.
On the other hand, if you value having someone friendly to talk to when you’re stuck, you might want to look at suppliers such as Tonik Energy or OVO Energy who both provide excellent customer service. For more information about switching to Pure Planet, click below to contact an energy expert.