How to switch energy supplier
Switching your energy provider can seem daunting.
There are a whole host of things we think could go wrong, so many of us don’t even bother.
62% of households have never switched energy, according to research by industry regulator Ofgem.
Many people are either worried about potential problems, or simply can’t be bothered.
But the reality is that switching is really, really easy – it takes ten minutes and can save you a pile of cash.
Take a look at some of the deals available on our energy comparison tool if you don’t believe us.
We’ve set out to answer some of the questions that you might have about switching energy.
By the end of this guide you will have a clear idea of what happens during the process, and be ready to take the plunge and save yourself some serious money.
Will I save money if I switch energy?
There are massive savings to be made switching energy.
The average saving when switching gas and electricity is £301, according to Which?; that’s enough for a nice little city break in Europe for you and a friend. We recommend Amsterdam.
Switching both gas and electricity (duel fuel) is usually cheaper because providers offer attractive deals to convince you to receive all your energy with them. And it’s easier to manage because all your bills are in one place.
Always compare prices against the cost of getting your electricity and gas from different providers. Remember, opting for two single tariffs would mean you’d have two bills and two different companies to deal with when things go wrong.
But, as ever, the power is in your hands and it’s worth shopping around.
Top Tip: Whoever you switch to, make sure you’re paying by direct debit. It’s estimated to be £70 a year cheaper than any other payment plan.
Will I be charged twice if I switch energy provider?
This one really worries people – but the chance that you will get billed twice is very small.
The companies agree a date for passing over the payment so it should be seamless.
To make sure there are no hiccups, provide up to date and accurate meter readings to both your new and old supplier and cancel any out of date direct debits.
What if my old supplier owes me money?
If your supplier owes you money, they should give it back to you. No questions asked.
This will have happened when you have been paying more than you need to each month to cover your energy usage and have built up credit.
Getting what you’re owed can be easier said than done.
Take Polly Simonds, who was owed £300 by Scottish Power months after she switched.
She posted her complaint about Scottish Power on A Spokesman Said and, in just four days, finally got her money back.
A delighted Polly told us: “After over 3 weeks of trying to get my money back from Scottish Power, I got in touch with A Spokesman Said, who took on the case on my behalf. The next day, it was sorted, plus some extra compensation as an apology. I can't recommend them enough.”
If you have a problem with an old supplier, post your complaint and demand action.
What if I owe my old supplier money?
Your new supplier will pass up-to-date meter readings to your old supplier and, if you owe them money, you need to pay up immediately.
Even if you owe money, you may still be allowed to switch – this will depend on the supplier’s policy.
Customers on a prepayment meter can switch if their debt is under £500 (more on this later).
If you’re on a debt repayment plan with your old supplier, you can’t switch until that is complete.
What will happen to my power supply during the changeover?
Your power will remain on throughout the switch.
Don’t worry, your TV won’t cut out suddenly in the middle of Coronation Street and you won’t be left cooking off a wood fire in the garden.
And there’s no physical maintenance like pipework that needs doing, so your house won’t be full of builders.
Can I switch energy if I am a tenant?
The golden rule to remember it that the person whose name is on the bill can decide whether they want to switch.
If you’re a tenant, but you’re the one paying, you are fully entitled to switch energy.
Your contract may have a clause preventing you from doing so – but these are very rare.
So, if you’re renting and are ready to save some money, use our energy comparison service to find the best deal.
Will it cost me anything to switch energy?
This one depends on what tariff you’re on.
If you’re looking to leave a fixed-term contract, your supplier may charge you an exit fee – typically this will be around £25 per fuel.
You will NOT be charged if you leave towards the end of your fixed term contract. Your supplier must notify you 49 days before your contract terminates; when you get this notice, you are free to switch without spending a penny.
Top Tip: If you receive the Warm Home Discount, check whether your new supplier offers it. If they don’t, you won’t be able to get it and you could be left out of pocket.
Is it all about the money?
The main reason to switch is to save money, but it’s worth bearing a number of other things in mind.
Customer service is increasingly important; to find out more about how energy companies perform, check out our reviews.
With more small energy suppliers on the market it can be hard to know if a company is any good.
How will I know what the best tariff for me is?
There a whole host of tariffs out there that you can choose from, it just depends what you’re looking for.
We’ve broken them down briefly here:
Fixed tariffs are usually the least costly.
Fixed does what it says on the tin: the price of energy won’t change for the duration of the contract. It’s worth noting that if you’re on a fixed tariff you won’t benefit from any drops in wholesale prices BUT you won't be hit by any increases either.
Variable tariffs provide a set rate for your energy, but the rates can go up and down.
A green tariff. If you’re eco-conscious, these are the tariffs for you.
Bulb and So Energy are two of the greenest suppliers on the market, and claim to be some of the cheapest too.
Sustainable energy is an important factor for many customers.
Standard variable tariffs offer the most flexibility. You won’t be shackled to a contract and will be able to switch free of charge if things don’t work out.
BUT they’re also usually the most expensive on the market, except when a supplier offers just one tariff.
If you're on a standard variable tariff you must check if you are overpaying - 12 million customers in the UK are!
Can I switch if I’ve got a prepayment meter?
Yes, you are still able to switch but it’s likely you will have to move to another prepayment tariff.
If you’re over £500 in debt on your meter, you will not be able to switch until the debt is cleared.
However, smaller suppliers may have different limits, so it’s worth phoning and finding out your options.
There’s a chance you will be able to get off a prepayment meter and onto a cheaper standard unit meter.
Pass a credit rating and many companies will install these free of charge.
What about Economy 7 meters?
Customers with Economy 7 meters – a meter that means you pay two different rates for electricity – can still switch, but will need to have a new meter installed.
For more information, read: Economy 7 tariff - what is it? And is it right for you?
How long does switching energy take?
You won’t be switched over straight away. The whole process takes about 17 days.
Your new supplier should then send you a welcome pack outlining the terms of your new agreement with them.
If I don’t have internet, can I switch energy?
Of course you can!
Give our friendly energy price comparison gurus a ring for free on 0800 977 4486 and they will talk you through it.
Can I change my mind?
Yes – within 14 days. This is the cooling off period where you can decide the move is not for you and cancel for free.
Contact your supplier and terminate the switch – your supply will not be affected.
Cancel after 14 days and you may be charged a fee, depending on that company’s policy.
Switching is only getting easier
The government announced their ‘Switching Principles’ – intended to make it simpler and easier for consumers to shop around for the best deals.
They proposals state that “the switching process should be led by the organisation with most interest in making the switching process work effectively – the gaining provider.”
In other words, your new supplier should handle almost everything for you.
The Energy Switching Guarentee
Launched by industry body Energy UK, The Energy Switch Guarantee aims to give switchers peace of mind.
It's a list of ten commitments that energy companies signed up the scheme must honour. These are:
1. Your service will not be interrupted.
2. It's free to compare and switch.
3. It will take 21 days or less.
4. You won't have anyone visiting your house.
5. Your new supplier will contact your old supplier for you to arrange a handover date.
6. Your new supplier will send you your energy details straight away.
7. You won't be charged twice.
8. Any problems will be dealt with by your new supplier.
9. You will receive your final bill within six weeks.
10. Any money you're owed will be refunded within 14 days of your final bill date.
Suppliers that are signed up can display the Energy Switching Guarantee logo on its site.
Of the Big Six, British Gas, E.ON, EDF and Npower are all signed up. Smaller suppliers include First Utility, Flow Energy, Sainsbury's Energy, So Energy, Octopus Energy and Bulb.
If your energy supplier doesn't adhere to these rules, let us know here.
The Switching Energy Checklist:
Are your fears allayed? Ready to switch?
There’s a few things you will need:
* Your postcode
* How you currently pay for energy (meter or direct debit, for example). You can find this on your bill.
* What tariff you’re currently on
* How much you spent last year on energy (ask your supplier if you don’t know)
And that’s it, you’re a fully-fledged, savvy energy consumer ready to switch and save.
It’s Switching Time
Congratulations, you should be ready to switch.
Use our energy price comparison service to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Are you paying too much for your energy bills?
We compare prices from the Big 6 and many other energy suppliers, getting you the very best price.