Energy > Guides

11 terrible excuses for not switching your energy supplier

Richard Bayston

Richard Bayston
Oct 4, 2016

Switching energy suppliers makes sense on paper: the average UK dual-fuel bill is £1,265, but the cheapest long-term tariff is £899.

On average, switching energy suppliers is worth £238 a year, while some people could save as much as £512 a year.

It just takes a bit of legwork; all you need to do is compare energy prices to get the best deal.

But despite this many of us cling to our present suppliers.

Often, though, all that stands between us and a huge cut in our energy bills are myths.

It’s time to break free of them!


1. I Have a Prepayment Meter

9% of people thought they would need a new meter if they switched suppliers 

If you have a prepayment meter, you don’t need to worry about changing energy suppliers. It’s a myth that switching to a new supplier means you need a new meter. Almost all energy suppliers have a prepayment tariff and there is money to be saved here, too: the difference between the highest and lowest prepayment tariff is about £180 a year.

There can be differences between suppliers’ best prepayment and standard tariffs so if you’re planning to come off prepayment in the future, check that you won’t be losing money down the line.


2. I’ll Need New Pipes And Wires

7% of people think energy companies will need to dig up their garden if they switch

The energy companies use the wires and pipes the same way phone companies use the phone lines: whoever you buy your energy from, it all comes down the same pipes.

The switch happens at the other end, when a different company oversees supplying you your power.

There’s no need to change any of the hardware at your end: no digging your garden, no access to your home and no installing wires and pipes.

And, of course, your supply will not cut out during the switch over.


3. I’m Moving House

Moving house is a golden opportunity to switch your energy supplier.

Whether you can take your current supplier with you, or go with whoever is supplying your new home already, you’ll need to give your old supplier final meter readings from your current residence and call your new supplier with readings from the new house as soon as possible: you’re responsible for these as soon as you sign for the property and become the tenant or owner.

Since you have to do this it makes sense to look for the best deal, and use the opportunity to switch (use our money saving tool to make sure you get the best price).


4. I Owe Money to My Current Supplier

59% of people think you can’t switch if you owe your present supplier money

This is true, but only sometimes. Here’s how it works:

* If you’ve been in debt for 28 days or less you can switch as normal. Your debt is transferred to the new supplier.

* If you’ve been in debt for more than 28 days you can’t switch until you’ve paid back the debt. This only applies if the debt is your fault; if your supplier has caused the debt, for instance by miscalculating your bill, you can switch as normal and your supplier has limited power to collect the debt whether you switch or not.

* If you’re on a prepayment meter and you’ve been in debt for 28 days or less you can switch as normal. If you’ve been in debt for more than 28 days and owe less than £500 on gas and £500 on electricity, you can switch and the debt travels with you to the new supplier.

Your energy supply will not be affected by your switch


5. My Current Supplier Owes Me Money

If you pay your energy bills by direct debit, you pay the same amount each month - but you don’t use the same amount each month. So you can find yourself in credit. What happens to that when you move supplier?

It’s simple: When you switch energy companies, your old supplier just refunds you if you’re in credit.

You take a final meter reading and give it to your old supplier. They’ll do the maths and charge you for what (if anything) you still owe since your last payment. Then they’ll refund the outstanding balance into your bank account. 

If they don’t, you have every right to make a complaint and demand your money back.


6. I’m a Tenant 

20% of tenants don’t know they can switch supplier

As a tenant you have the same right to switch energy supplier as an owner does. Unless you have a specific contract with your landlord that they handle your gas and electricity and you pay them, you can switch whenever you like. If your contract includes a default supplier, or preferred supplier, you still have the right to switch if you’re directly responsible for energy payments.


7. I Have a Prepayment Meter

Smart meters don’t stop you switching suppliers and you won’t need a new meter to switch. However, unlike normal meters, energy companies don’t have to make their smart meters compatible with other suppliers and they usually don’t. That means if you switch your smart meter will work like a normal meter.

The best solution is to check up with your energy supplier and find out whether their smart meters can be switched, and to figure out whether you’re saving more by having a smart meter or by being with a cheaper supplier.


8. I’m Already on a Fixed-Price Tariff 

Fixed-price tariffs protect you from rising energy costs, though they also ‘protect’ you from falling energy costs. In exchange for guaranteeing how much you have to pay, companies use fixed-price tariffs to guarantee how much they’ll earn, so they’re keen to keep you on the tariff. That means many fixed-price plans have exit fees.

You can avoid these by waiting until your plan is nearly expired: energy regulator Ofgem says your energy company has to write to you 42 - 49 days before the end of your plan and warn you that your plan is ending. When it does end, they’ll automatically put you on their cheapest standard tariff, which usually means a price jump.

But the good news is, from the moment you receive the letter you’re free to switch - and free of exit fees.


9. I’ll Have To Pay Two Suppliers During the Changeover  

You’ll never pay two suppliers at once for your energy. What’s meant to happen is that the old supplier simply passes over your details to the new supplier on the day you’re scheduled to change. There’s no gap in your supply, and there’s no moment when two companies are responsible for your supply at the same time.

The process is automated, so what could go wrong?

When clerical errors are made you’ll sometimes receive bills or see direct debits go out to your old supplier.

You don’t have to pay the bills (whatever you might get in the post to the contrary) and you can cancel the direct debits. The old supplier will have to pay you back any direct debits they took after you switched over and you may be entitled to compensation too.


10. I’ll Have To Pay an Exit Fee

Some energy suppliers do charge an exit fee.

Many of the lowest-price energy deals on the market come with one - it’s the price you pay for predictable payments.

Fixed-price tariffs run for a set period, and you can leave when the period is about to expire with no cost.

Ofgem says your gas or electricity company has to contact you by letter 42-49 days before your tariff period is up and arrange with you what you want to do next, and, in this time frame, you can leave your plan and your supplier any time after you get the letter at no cost.

If you do have to pay an exit fee, it might be worth doing the maths.

Exit fees typically run from £25 to £30 per fuel, meaning there may be a total cost as high as £60 to change over. But if you’re saving £238 a year, you’ll make £60 back in three months.

Exit fees depend on what company supplies your gas and electricity and what tariff you are on. Some providers offer tariffs with attractive exit fee deals; First Utility, for example, won’t charge you at all to leave on certain tariffs.


11. What If Something Goes Wrong? 

In theory, switching over from one energy supplier to another is simple and easy.

In practice it usually is too. But things can go wrong. You can find yourself still getting bills from the old supplier, for instance.

Or you can find that your new energy supplier has signed your neighbour up by mistake! (You laugh: it happens.) It can also be difficult to get direct debits or other credit refunded, for instance.

A Spokesman Said’s consumer expert Fred Isaac says: ‘A supplier must refund your money immediately if you switch in credit, but it can take up to ninety days. Make sure you know all your energy rights back to front; don’t give up, be persistent and keep demanding what you know you’re owed.’  


Key points

* If your name is on the bill, you can switch, whether you’re a tenant or an owner.
* You can almost certainly save money by switching, potentially as much as £512 a year! It’s just a case of comparing.
* Weigh up the cost of paying off exit fees against the cost of paying higher rates for energy: it might be cheaper to eat the fees!
* Insist that companies do what they’re supposed to; don’t let them fob you off. Complain publicly and demand action.


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