We’re always being told to switch energy supplier to save money, but what does it involve? If you’ve never switched before – or even if you have – there are some tips it’s really worth knowing. Here’s your guide to switching energy supplier:
1. If you’ve never switched your energy supplier before, you should do it. You stand to gain the most. You’ll also make the biggest savings if you’re currently on the standard tariff (which around 70% of people are).
Get hold of your annual statement or – if you don’t have this, – a year’s worth of bills (or online statements) so you know how much energy you’ve used in the last 12 months. That will mean you get a much more accurate idea of how much you could save.
2. Use an Ofgem accredited price comparison site. They should display tariff from energy suppliers that they don’t get a commission from, as well as those that do as a default view. Price comparison sites that aren’t signed up to the confidence code may ask you whether you want to only see companies you can switch to ‘today’ or all companies. Select all companies if you’re happy to do the switching yourself directly with the company (otherwise you could miss out on the biggest savings) or ‘only those I can switch to today’ if you want to switch there and then.
3. Check a couple of different price comparison sites. They all work in the same way but some are a bit more user friendly than others. Several that are easy to use (and accredited by Ofgem) include The Energy Shop. Moneysupermarket and uSwitch.
4. Don’t just switch on the basis of price. Some comparison sites include a user rating – use it. In my view, there’s no point in saving a few pounds by switching to the cheapest deal if the energy supplier you switch to is incapable of producing an accurate bill. Another way of finding out if the company has breached the regulator’s rules is to type the name of the supplier into a search engine along with ‘Ofgem’ or ‘fine’.
5. Find out whether the new supplier offers the Warm Home Discount if you qualify for it. This discount is available to people who are of pension age and it’s currently worth £140 off your electricity bill. Not all energy suppliers have to offer it. If you qualify for it, it’s worth taking account of. You can read more about Who gets the Warm Home Discount in my article.
6. You can switch energy provider if you’re on a prepayment meter, as long as you don’t owe more than £500 in arrears for each fuel. Some energy companies offer fixed tariffs for prepayment customers and others don’t, so that might be a reason to switch. You can also switch supplier if you’re in a rented property as long as you don’t pay your gas and electricity bills as part of your rent. You can read more about Can you switch your energy supplier if you’re on a prepayment gas or electricity meter? in my article.
7. The switching process should be straightforward and should only take a few weeks. Some energy suppliers (but not all) have signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee. This says, among other things, that it should take no more than 21 days from start to finish (the clock starts with the day that your new supplier receives your completed application). You have a cooling off period of 14 days so, if you change your mind, you can cancel the switch and you won’t have to pay anything. Your new supplier is also obliged to sort out any problems during the switch and your old supplier promises to send you a final bill no later than six weeks after you leave.
SAVVY TIP: Companies that have signed up to The Energy Switch Guarantee can use the logo on their website, but the guarantee only kicks in if both the company you’re switching from and the one you’re switching to have signed up to it. Ask before you switch.
8. Make a note in your diary to switch again when your new deal runs out. If you don’t, you could end up back on the standard tariff. If you prefer, you could use an app such as Flipper, which will switch you onto the best deal as soon as your existing one runs out. It costs £25 a year to join, but it will only take money from you if it can save you at least £50 a year. Voltz works in a similar way in that it finds you a good deal the moment an existing one runs out, but it won’t automatically switch you – you have to do that via the app.
9. If your new energy company takes the wrong amount from your direct debit or takes two payments, you can go back to your bank (and not the energy company) for a refund. Under something called the Direct Debit Guarantee, your bank must refund any money that’s been wrongly taken from your account, even if it’s the energy company (and not the bank’s) fault.
SAVVY TIP: From time to time, people get billed by the old and new supplier or the meter details aren’t written down correctly and there’s a meter mix up when they switch. Find out what your rights are if this happens in my article What to do if there’s a meter mix up or you’re billed by the wrong energy company.
10. Make sure you get a refund of any money that’s owing to you from your old supplier. Your old supplier should automatically refund any money you’re in credit by – it’s one of the rules laid down by the regulator, Ofgem. However, it’s worth checking that it’s been done as – funnily enough – one or two suppliers don’t make this a priority.
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