Today the last of the six big energy companies’ price rises comes into effect. Eon’s customers can switch to save money, but how long does it take to feel the benefit?
Eon customers – of which I’m one – are the last group of energy customers to be affected by this year’s inflation busting hikes (unless you’re with a smaller supplier). But as the snow falls this morning, this delay is little comfort when we face a bill increase of almost 9%.
So what should I do about this year’s hike? Looking at my latest bill, I definitely need to find ways to cut down my heating costs and think about whether my draughty house could be a bit more insulated.
Switching to save
But I also decided to go to Which? Switch and see whether I could get a better deal by switching supplier. Sadly the current deals don’t seem to offer me much of a saving, so immediately I wondered if I could be bothered with going through the hassle of changing my tariff.
Of course, switching your supplier is fairly straight forward. And a lot of people who are on poor value deals – like the three quarters of energy customers on standard tariffs – could potentially save a couple of hundred pounds by getting onto a better tariff.
But the fact remains that switching should be even simpler. And one of the main things that needs to be tackled is the length is takes for a switch to take place.
Which? highlighted this in our ‘Imbalance of Power’ report that we published before Christmas. The report set out how the energy market has been failing consumers. As well as making the case for tariffs to be radically simplified through a simple, single unit price, it also argued that the switching process needs to be improved.
Time is money
At present, the average switch takes between five and six weeks. And during this time customers have little information about what is going on. This means that the gains from switching don’t benefit my budget immediately, unlike similar money-saving moves like choosing a cheaper supermarket.
The EU has tried to tackle this through legislation requiring a three-week switch. But the UK government proposed a two week ‘cooling off’ period before the switch commences, meaning that it will still take up to five weeks.
This doesn’t seem to be the case in other EU countries. In Ireland and Norway you can switch in a week, while in Finland, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden it takes around two weeks. So why should it take so long here?
I may end up deciding to switch supplier, if I can find a cheap enough alternative. If I do, why should I have to wait such a long time to see the financial benefit of switching?