How to switch energy supplier ...
Millions of UK customers have switched their energy supplier since the market was opened up to competition in 1999.
If you've never switched you could be missing out on annual savings of up to £250 and the process of switching your energy supplier is far easier than you might expect.
A recent DTI investigation discovered that 90% of customers who switched their gas and electricity company found it easy. New rules mean that you now have seven days from the date you receive the written confirmation to cancel a contract.
So what does the process really involve? Before making any decisions it's important to utilise the abundance of free advice provided by your local Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre, your current energy supplier and local councils.
Step 1 - Compare your existing energy supplier with the market
The first setp is to compare your existing supplier against others in the market. In order to do this, you need to calculate how much you are currently paying by looking at your last four quarterly bills. With this data to hand, you can use one of the free online price comparison services to compare your existing energy tariff against all others. At the time of writing, all of the energy price comparison services below are registered with the Consumer Focus Confidence Code. For a current list visit the Consumer Focus website.
Step 2 - Choose a new energy supplier
Using the results of your price comparison, you can do a little more research to ensure you choose the best supplier for your needs.
There are currently more than fifteen energy suppliers to choose from. You can choose separate companies to supply your gas and electricity or choose one company to supply both, known as dual fuel.
In addition to this there are a number of importnat questions to ask before deciding to change to a new supplier.
Which tariff is best value for me?
Different tariffs (or prices) are offered to different consumers according to their circumstances. The amount of fuel you use will also have an effect upon the price you pay. Someone who uses a lot of energy may be offered an energy supply at a cheaper rate than someone who uses less. Whatever price you are quoted, you should ensure that it includes VAT.
Are there any special discounts or incentives?
From time to time, energy suppliers offer special discounts or incentives to consumers who want them to supply both their gas and electricity (dual fuel). Some suppliers offer special payment schemes for pensioners.
Are there any extra charges?
There are some companies who add a standing charge to your energy bill. Companies that do not add a standing charge may ask for a higher unit price for the gas and electricity you use instead.
What are the payment options?
Ask suppliers to tell you about all the payment options available to you so that you can make the best choice for you. Some payment options can be cheaper than others such as Direct Debit. Payment options vary in frequency from weekly to quarterly and paying by cash, postal order, cheque, direct debit, or prepayment meter. It's also a good idea to confirm that there are no penalties for cancellation of the contract.
Do they have many complaints?
As well as price, you should also consider the quality of service you are likely to receive from a new supplier. Consumer Focus can provide details of the amount and types of complaints a supplier has received from consumers about individual suppliers.
Step 3 - Switch your energy supplier
Once you have selected the supplier best suited to your needs, actually changing is a relatively simple process.
- Contact your chosen supplier, either direct with the company or via the comparison service and apply to switch your supply. You will receive a contract to check and sign which will start the transfer process. This should take about six weeks to complete and your new supplier will keep you informed about its progress.
- Inform your old supplier that you are switching to a new energy company and give 28 days notice. It's a good idea to do this by telephone and also provide written confirmation.
- Pay any outstanding bills to your existing energy supplier and cancel any direct debit with your bank.
- Read your meter on the day specified by your new supplier so they can update their records.
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