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Switching Energy Suppliers

Switching energy suppliers has never been easier. Switching supplier each year is now so common that a whole industry has developed to help us make the change.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to switch, because our existing supplier would reward our loyalty with a reduced tariff. The truth is, energy companies penalise our loyalty. They increase prices for existing customers each year, while wooing new customers with the best deals. The good news is we can get the best deals if we switch.  

What info do I need to switch?

All of the info you need to switch can be found on a recent energy bill.

  • The name of your current supplier(s)
  • The name of the type of tariff(s) you have (eg, Standard)
  • How much you use (kWh) per year or how much you pay per month or year.
  • Some sites ask for your postcode and the size of your home (number of rooms)

Once you have the details to hand, it takes five minutes to see how much you could save by popping a few details onto a comparison website. We have a handy guide on using comparison sites here, for those who haven’t used them before.

Some comparison sites focus just on energy tariffs. If you go to Energyhelpline.com, for example, they have the best energy deals offered by area. You pop in your postcode and you can see within a couple of minutes the best local deals available. This can be surprisingly effective, because not all energy providers cover the whole of the country.

Is switching free?

Yes, switching is free – as long as you have reached the end of your current contract. Most energy suppliers offer 12 month contracts. If you decide to leave before the end of the contract period, your supplier might charge an ‘exit fee’. That’s why it is always best to wait until the end of the contract period to switch. Also, when choosing a new deal, check to see if it has an exit fee attached, and how long the contract period lasts. If you are unsure how long your current contract lasts, and if there is an ‘exit fee’, contact your current supplier and check.   

What do I do once I’ve chosen a new deal?

Once you’ve chosen a new deal on the comparison site, you just need to follow the links and the new energy supplier will switch things over. If you’d prefer, you can call the new supplier and switch over the phone. You don’t even have to inform your old supplier you are switching. Just take a meter reading on the day you switch, and keep it safe. The reading will be required by the new supplier, to make sure you aren’t paying for energy used before the switch.

The switch then happens automatically, and takes between 17 and 21 days. There should be no disruption in your service. In fact, the only thing you should notice is a different company name on the bill (and that the bill is cheaper!). You have a ‘cooling off’ period of 14 days after the date you decide to switch, in which you can change your mind. If you decide after 14 days to change your mind, you might be charged a fee.

Can I still switch if I use a pre-payment meter?

Yes, you can still switch energy suppliers if you use a pre-payment meter. The deals offered on these meters aren’t as competitive as general tariffs. This is because they offer the most expensive tariffs, which are now ‘capped’ by the government. There is still a bit of difference in price, though. If you rent your home, you’ll need to get your landlord’s permission before switching meters. You also need to have less than £500 owed on the meter to switch. Most comparison sites have options to compare just pre-payment meter tariffs against each other.

Other things to be aware of…

Some landlords have their own arrangements with energy suppliers. If you’re a tenant, you might want to check if the landlord has a special deal or if you’re okay to shop around.

If you get the Warm Home Discount, you might want to check how it works with the new supplier.

If the supplier you’ve chosen is new to the market, do a quick internet search to find reviews for them before switching.

More info  

For more info, check out:

The guide to switching suppliers at Citizens Advice.

The Which? web pages on switching suppliers.