Switching energy suppliers can seem quite daunting, especially if you have never changed suppliers before. Learn all you need to know to confidently make that switch.
Why Should You Switch Energy Suppliers?
There are lots of reasons why you should switch energy suppliers, these include:
- You have never switched suppliers before and you could be getting a better deal, for example, you could save up to £482 per year
- You have reached the end of your fixed term tariff and will be put on a standard tariff with higher rates
- You are on a standard tariff
- You are receiving poor customer service from your energy supplier
- Your energy tariff rates are high, or you would prefer a different tariff structure
- You are eligible for the Warm Home Discount, but your supplier does not offer it
- You want a smart meter and your energy supplier is not currently offering them
Most of the above reasons are financial ones and the reason for that is that most people do not switch suppliers and they can end up on expensive tariffs.
Unless you are unhappy with the performance of your supplier you are unlikely to want to switch for any other reason than financial ones.
The Energy Switching Process: The Basics
- Before you start to look for a new supplier, you should check with your current energy company to ensure you don’t have any exit fees for leaving. These are more likely if you are in a fixed tariff deal and you are yet to come to the end of it. Even if you do have an exit fee – you may still find that it is worth your while to switch due to the savings to be made.
- Gather together some basic information including your latest bill from your current supplier and a meter reading. This will make finding a new deal more accurate. You will also need your address details and your bank details to set up a direct debit with your new supplier.
- Log into one of the energy comparison sites. There are plenty to be found online – but you should try to use one of those that are accredited by Ofgem under their voluntary Confidence Code. This signifies that the company is fair and transparent. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call one of the sites and they will talk you through the comparison process over the phone.
- The site will ask you for basic information including your postcode and the detail from your latest bill. If you don’t have one, they will ask you a few questions about your household to determine the level of energy you are likely to use. These sites are not obliged to ask you about your full address – you do not need to give this. However a postcode will help them to find the best deals as these vary depending on where you live.
- The site may also ask you about the type of tariff you want to choose. This may be dual fuel, a green tariff, a fixed rate deal or a special rate deal. You may find that certain features cost more – but that you are willing to pay more for extra peace of mind or a renewable energy tariff.
- You will then be given a list of possible suppliers. You may be able to filter this list by the features you want, including the price. This will include the larger suppliers and the smaller energy companies.
- You might feel more comfortable in researching the energy companies on your list before making your choice. You can do this by searching out reviews on them. Some comparison sites offer reviews of the main suppliers to allow you to make a more informed choice. This is especially the case for smaller, more unknown, suppliers.
- Once you have decided on the company you want to switch to, the process is very simple. Simply click on the choice and the website will automatically direct you to the sign up page. In some cases this may be via the comparison site and in others, it may take you directly to the energy company website.
- The new supplier (or the comparison site) will organise the switch for you. You don’t need to do much more than give them your details and a meter reading when asked. In some cases the comparison site does not have a deal with the choice of supplier – so they will direct you to the company for you to speak to them on the phone or sign-up online. In this case the supplier will take care of the switch.
- It usually take around one month for the switch to be completed and during this time you will hear from both the old and the new supplier confirming the details. There will be no loss in supply during the switch.
How Much Am I Likely To Save?
This depends on a number of factors including how recently you last switched and the type of tariff you were on most recently. If you are on a standard variable tariff and haven’t switched for a few years, you are likely to save more than someone on a fixed rate. The average saving according to government figures is around £200 per year – but many people save much more.
How Do You Find a Better Deal?
When you are looking for a new energy supplier one of the easiest ways to find the best-priced energy deals is to use a price comparison site. Power Compare has a price comparison tool that is powered by uSwitch which allows you to compare energy tariffs from a wide range of suppliers and is accredited by Ofgem.
To get the most out of your price comparison you should try to use real figures from your energy bills so that you get a more accurate comparison and energy price projection. If you cannot find your energy bills then it doesn’t prevent you from using the price comparison sites as they have estimated figures for the property sizes and usage, but it may make the results less accurate.
It is also worth knowing that you will probably be offered better deals if you pay for your energy by monthly direct debit and you manage your account online as this reduces the overheads for the energy supplier as well as making regular payments which makes you a more desirable customer.
You should also consider if you want to have the security of a fixed price tariff that stays the same for the length of your contract and whether the contract length suits you. Standard or variable tariffs tend to have much higher rates, but they offer more flexibility if you want to switch again soon or are planning on moving home.
Once you have the results of your price comparison you should do some research to see what others have to say about the energy supplier and find out a bit more about them.
At Power Compare we have done the legwork for you and have compiled all the information about the UK energy suppliers including their background, customer reviews, complaint data, and what they offer.
How Do I Choose The Cheapest Tariff?
The comparison site you choose will give you the basic breakdown of the rates you will be expected to pay for each of your choices. This makes it easy to understand. However there are a few points that are worth bearing in mind.
- If you pay by direct debit, you will get a cheaper rate.
- If you conduct your account entirely online (by submitting meter readings yourself) your tariff will be cheaper.
- If you choose a fixed term rate, you may find it to be cheaper – but you are locked in for that period of time.
- Extra features such as renewable energy companies may result in higher tariffs, but you may still be willing to pay this premium.
What Should You Look for When Switching to a New Supplier?
When you are looking for a new energy supplier you should look for the following:
- Tariff rates, tariff type (fixed or variable), and contract length
- Payment type – monthly direct debit, variable direct debit, or payment on receipt of a bill
- Account management – online management, paper or paperless billing
- Exit fees
- Discounts for dual fuel, online account management, paperless billing, direct debit payment
- Meters that they support
- Whether they are installing smart meters
- Electricity fuel mix and whether they offer renewable energy as standard as part of their tariffs or charge extra
- Their background and experience
- Customer reviews
- Any news stories about them
This may seem like a lot of research, but Power Compare has pulled all this information together for each of the UK energy suppliers, so you just need to look in one place to find all the information you need. Exploring our reviews will give you confidence that you are selecting the right energy supplier and may save you some problems in the future.
What Does Switching Suppliers Entail?
Once you have found a good energy supplier all you need to do is complete the switch with them. For most energy suppliers you can switch through a price comparison site or through their online quoting tool when you select your tariff.
You then need to provide a few more details including your bank account details for direct debit payments if that is your chosen payment method. Alternatively, most suppliers have phone numbers that you can call to process your switch to them.
After giving all your details to the new energy supplier, they will complete the switch for you including contacting your existing supplier and finalising your supply with them. The transition between the two energy suppliers should be seamless and you should not even notice the changeover. The only thing you will need to do during the switch is to provide the meter readings a few days before the switch takes place.
Once the change is completed you will need to pay your final bill from your previous supplier which they will send to you based on the meter readings you gave your new energy provider.
Switching suppliers usually takes up to 21 days but it averages at 17 days plus the cooling off period of 14 days.
Can I Get a Better Deal and Not Switch Suppliers?
If you are happy with your energy supplier or you really do not want to go through the switching process, then you can challenge your energy supplier to give you a better deal.
Your current supplier will be able to look at what your energy usage is and may be able to offer you a better deal. Some deals are restricted to or offer better rates if you manage your account online and pay by direct debit, so it is worth considering these options if you can.
Can I Switch Suppliers If I am Still in a Contractual Period?
Yes, you can switch energy suppliers even though you are on a contract. You will need to check your contract, but you may need to give them notice before you can leave, and you may incur an exit fee which can be around £30 for either both fuels or per fuel depending on your supplier.
If you are less than 49 days from the end of your contract then your energy supplier cannot charge you an exit fee.
Can I Switch Suppliers If I Have a Prepayment Meter?
Yes, there is no reason why you cannot switch energy suppliers even if you are in debt as long as the debt is under £500 per fuel type. Not all energy suppliers will accept the debt on your meter and not all suppliers offer prepayment meter tariffs.
Can I Switch Supplies If I am In Debt?
You may be able to switch energy suppliers if you are in debt depending on your circumstances.
Credit meter customers can switch if the debt on the account is less than 28 days old. If the debt is over 28 days old, you will need to pay the debt before you will be able to switch suppliers.
Prepayment meter customers can switch suppliers if the debt on the account is less than £500 per fuel type as you able to do this through the Debt Assignment Protocol. You will need to get your new supplier to agree to take on the debt on your account.
What if I am owed money?
If you have been paying your energy bills by regular direct debit, you may have built up a credit (or possibly a debit) on your account. Your old supplier is required to return any credit to you and you are required to pay any outstanding amounts – usually on the date you would normally pay your bill.
Can I Switch If I Am a Tenant?
When you move into a rented home, the energy company is usually already in place to ensure continuity of supply – however you are within your rights to change this as soon as you move in. If the new supplier wants to install a meter or another device such as a prepayment meter, you should contact your landlord to discuss.
Can I Switch Suppliers If I Have a Smart Meter?
Yes, you can switch if you have had a smart meter installed. However, your new energy supplier may not be able to receive messages digitally from your meter and they would treat it as a standard meter until their systems are ready and compatible with your meter. In this situation, you would need to provide regular meter readings.
Depending on the model of the smart meter installed, if it is a first or second generation, to whether your smart meter is compatible with other energy suppliers’ systems.
Most energy suppliers have configured their systems to communicate with the second-generation smart meters so if you have a first-generation meter then it will need to be exchanged in the future. This should not prevent you from switching suppliers, but it may be operated as a standard meter.
The government has tasked the energy suppliers to replace all meters with smart meter by 2020. All energy suppliers are gearing up to switching to smart meters but not all of them are installing meters yet either because they do not have the systems ready to communicate with the smart meters, or they do not have the infrastructure in place to install the smart meters in their customers’ homes.
What Can I Do If My Energy Supplier Will Not Let Me Switch Suppliers?
If your energy supplier will not allow you to switch suppliers when you are entitled to, then you should make a complaint. If you are a prepayment meter customer that is in debt, the Citizens Advice has a template for this complaint to help explain that you have the right switch supplier.
Can You Change Your Mind Once the Switch Has Started?
Once you have signed up to switch energy suppliers you have a 14-day cooling off period where you can cancel the switch at no charge. After the cooling off period, you can still cancel the contract, but you may be charged an exit fee.
What about the Warm Home Discount?
The Warm Home Discount is a one-off payment that is aimed at people who are at risk of fuel poverty. This means those people who are spending more than 10% of their income on their fuel bills.
It is £140 and is taken directly off your energy bill by those energy suppliers who offer it. It is paid to people who receive the Pension Credit and in some cases to a broader range of people who fall into the category of vulnerable. The supplier can decide on this.
When you are choosing your new supplier, you should ensure you are choosing a company that offers the Warm Home Discount. Some of the smaller suppliers do not offer this. You will be contacted if you are eligible for this discount, but if you haven’t received a letter and think you might be eligible, you can contact the Warm Home Discount Scheme team or your supplier.
I have solar panels. Can I switch?
If you have solar panels, you will probably be receiving a feed-in-tariff from the government for the electricity that you produce. You may also be selling a portion of that electricity back to the grid.
You can still switch energy supplier if you use renewable energy, but you will need to choose an eligible energy company. However it is worth noting that the feed-in-tariff is set by Ofgem, not your supplier. So if you switch that rate will not change. However the tariff for the additional energy you use (gas and electricity) can be changed. Just make sure you choose a supplier that supports the use of solar panels.
Is It Wise To Choose a Smaller Supplier?
The energy market has been completely deregulated and smaller suppliers have flooded the market. This is great because it means a competitive sector. However many people are nervous of smaller companies and reluctant to switch to them. Using a good comparison site can really help you in this decision and you should do your homework on the company before you switch.
You can check their rating on sites like TrustPilot and read reviews by Ofgem or Which? Also it makes sense to choose a company that is accredited by Ofgem. Don’t simply choose the cheapest option – this may be a false economy.
What is the Energy Switch Guarantee?
The Energy Switch Guarantee is a voluntary commitment that promises customers a speedy and safe switch between energy suppliers. Not all energy suppliers have signed up for the Energy Switch Guarantee, you can find out which suppliers have committed to it on the Energy Switch Guarantee website.