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Why should you switch your energy supplier?

switch-electricity-supplier

When did you last switch your energy supplier? In the last year or two? Longer ago? Or perhaps you’ve always been with the same one.

If you’ve never switched, you’re not alone.

According to the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) June figures, more than half of energy customers in England (53%) remain with the incumbent supplier for either their gas or electricity supply, or both. For Scotland it’s 65% and Wales 61%.

I switched my electricity supplier just under a year ago – but by default. I moved flat and, with my new home, gained the previous tenants’ energy supplier.

How many people are switching their gas or electricity supplier each year is one of the key measures used by regulator Ofgem (and the government) to monitor the energy market and how well it’s working. The recent CMA review and Ofgem’s response aim to increase switching as part of making the energy market better for consumers.

At the moment, switching levels are low. But why? To find out, we surveyed 5,209 UK energy customers, and these were the top four reasons…

1. I’m happy with my current supplier

The top reason for not switching energy supplier, given by 44%. It’s great news if you’re a happy customer; but if you haven’t switched in the last five years, chances are you’re on your supplier’s variable tariff. This is the default tariff and usually the more expensive.

You might not be so happy to find out that you could be wasting £369 each year on energy. Which? research found that this is the average saving for people using our independent website to change energy suppliers.

2. All the suppliers are pretty much the same

The gas and electricity you use in your home is the same, regardless of the supplier you are with. But there are huge differences between suppliers – specifically in their prices and what their customers think of them.


In June we checked variable dual fuel tariffs from the Bix Six energy providers (British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE). We found that – on average – they were £329 more expensive than the very cheapest fixed dual fuel tariffs on the market.

Plus we found that the gap between the Big Six suppliers’ average standard dual fuel tariffs and the cheapest tariff has widened significantly in the last two years. From 2014 to June 2016, the price difference increased from £182 to £329.

Prices aside, our annual satisfaction survey on energy companies reveals big differences between suppliers, according to their customers. Our most recent survey of over 8,000 energy customers revealed that top provider Ovo Energy had an 82% customer score, while Npower found itself at the bottom of the table with a 41% customer score.

3. Switching would be too much hassle

This was the third reason onto the podium, and the barrier to switching for 21%. The potential gain from a new supplier seems to be outweighed in people’s minds by the workload involved to achieve it.

But switching energy supplier doesn’t have to be a huge hassle – a few clicks on a price comparison website that includes all the tariffs on the market. One example that will find the cheapest for you is our website Which? Switch – use this and you’ll see whether the saving is tempting enough to switch.

4. I’m already on a good deal

It’s a good feeling to know you’re on one of the cheapest deals on the market. But if it’s a fixed tariff, when it comes to an end (they’re usually one or two years long) you’ll automatically move onto your supplier’s default standard variable tariff. This is usually more expensive so keep an eye out for another good deal – and switch to it within the last 49 days of your current tariff. That’s when you can’t be charged an exit fee for leaving.

Do you agree? If you haven’t switched, what else is holding you back? Tell us in the comments below.

Comments
M. Pilkington says:
18 August 2016

It is all very well suggesting that we switch suppliers…it is fine if you are happy to pay for your energy by direct debit…….then switching is a simple process, but try and find an energy supplier who will allow you to pay by any other method than direct debit and you are stumped.
I pay my bills electronically on the day they drop on my mat. I have dual energy supplier discount, I have prompt payment discount…..but these discounts are paltry.
I can’t switch because all the best tariffs require a sign up to direct debit.

Maureen Lyon says:
18 August 2016

I am with the energy supplier because it is all from renewable sources, and always has been. I also get high quality service and was recently transferred to a good new deal through a 38 degrees campaign.

Phil says:
18 August 2016

Be aware that if you have a “smart” meter it may have to be changed if you switch supplier. There is no common standard and one company’s meters may not communicate with another’s system. Although hidden this represents an ongoing cost to consumers of £150-£200 every time you switch which will be added to your bill in some shape or form.

A friend of mine who has just been through this asked what happened to the old meters and was told that they simply get thrown away.

Which say ( which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/smart-meters-explained/getting-a-smart-meter-installed/ )
“If the smart meter installed isn’t compliant with the official roll-out specification, the supplier would need to upgrade your meter between 2016 and 2020 to bring it into the DCC communications system. The national campaign for the roll-out, Smart Energy GB, says it believes this upgrade can be done remotely and will not require an extra visit.”

Why on earth Smart Energy GB need to waste taxpayers money on expensive Gaz and Leccy cartoons beats me. What does it tell you about smart meters? Or about Smart Energy? Just perhaps they see us all as children. The facts about smart meters are far from convincing. 🙁

Last paragraph Malcolm , quite right . It is advertising policy to show adverts that are aimed (patronizingly ) at the lowest grade of Gallup Polls scale of public intelligence . To them they think they get their “message ” across to the widest audience , this now applies right across the advertising board , and honestly , makes me livid , if I could get a hold of those “chancers” I wouldnt be responsible for my actions . They are to blame for helping “brainwash ” the public into buying rubbish products that last a year, if you are lucky , and then break down or offer things or beauty products that are in the realm of the World of Disney , it beats me how seemingly intelligent people fall for those products obviously I dont have a “herd instinct ” brain.

Phil says:
18 August 2016

Smart meters are one of the biggest cons out in my opinion. A complete waste of money which would be better invested in building more capacity.

duncan, I think its just a stock solution from overpaid marketing people to put expensive campaigns on expensive media. I am not being sold anything; smart meters are being foisted upon us (free of charge – apart from paying for them through our future bills). So why do I need some mindless animated cartoon that explains nothing?

Stella Seville says:
18 August 2016

I’ve just switched to Ecotricity and was pleasantly surprised to discover their charges are lower than SSE my previous supplier and they will provide me with a monthly bill, based on my meter reading which I can pay by debit card or bank transfer as I don’t want to pay by direct debit . So far my calls have been answered promptly and efficiently.

Elizabeth Pesman says:
19 August 2016

I think that the government should do more to bring down the prices. In the past I was approached by a French energy firm, but because they promote nuclear fuel, I declined.

Unfortunately, principles come at a price, Elizabeth. Since all the electricity we consume comes through the same cables from whichever power stations are operating and feeding into the grid at the time it is impossible to avoid using nuclear power-generated electricity no matter which company you buy your electricity from. Some suppliers only buy fuel from certain more ethical sources which they feed into the grid but that gets mixed with power from all the other sources; it only represents a small proportion of the total supply, and overnight the predominant power source is nuclear fuel because the nuclear power stations provide the baseload of the UK’s energy resources since it cannot be switched in and out [as gas, oil, and coal can]. All the Big Six power companies rely on nuclear fuel for a portion of their supply even if they might not generate it themselves, and most of the smaller companies could not trade without buying nuclear-generated power at some point.

david lyon says:
19 August 2016

If anyone tells you it is easy to change your energy supplier,treat it very carefully. I switched, and 1 year later i
was stilled being chased by the ditched supplier,they even threatened to send in debt collectors,when I had cleared my account with them,.months previously. Other people have told me of similar horrors ,on changing supplier.If the supplier passes on your debt (where one did not exist) you can still gain a poor credit rating being registered. A poor credit rating will exclude you from many financial dealings.

ralph says:
19 August 2016

People should be encouraged to switch to the more eco-friendly energy suppliers like ecotricity or good energy. The environment surely must be more important than money? This is th only way we will be able to send a message to the corporations currently destroying th planet. Put your money where it matters and switch to eco-friendly alternatives, as you won’t be able to buy back the atmosphere no matter how much you save.

Shame on Which? for not encouraging switches for environmental reasons.

Anne RoBB says:
19 August 2016

I am with First Utility for gas and elec. anyone else with them and how do they rate.

Stella says:
20 August 2016

I’ve tried numerous times to get a bill, but cannot get one ??????? There is not even the option. All you can do is provide your own readings, but no matter what you submit the direct debit stays the same and they only tell you your annual usage. Al I want to know is how much do I owe today ? Eon can do this , why can’t first utility.

Stella I am on First Utility,s website on another browser , in Smart bill I have a sample statement of -previous balance and payment received with the total monetary amount in both cases in the rhs column in Summary. Below it on the same bill -s-new charges (payment type DD ) both for gas and electricity in the rhs column below is the final total so I dont understand how you can not get access to that- look at- first-utility.com/energy/understanding-your-bill. I should add that a statement period is included-IE- from xxxx- to-xxxx-4 monthly period.

Switching is all very well if you just need a standard tariff or Economy 7. I am (un?)fortunate enough to still be on an old “Warmwise” tariff. This provides 8 hours of heating per day and, crucially, 2 of those hours are in the afternoon. This provides a welcome boost for space heating – we only have 3 storage radiators in the whole house to keep warm, except in the depths of winter when we need to supplement it with full price electricity. The tariff also provides a useful top-up for our two hot water cylinders. And it is still guaranteed to be the cheapest off peak electricity from EDF (by about 0.001p per kWh).

It would be far more useful if the regulator ensured that electricity supply companies charged in line with wholesale energy prices; they are quick enough to increase prices, but we have been living with cheap oil for over a year and I haven’t seen any decrease in the tariff. OK, so EDF are largely nuclear, but that is their problem, not mine. Anyway, nuclear is charged for according to what the market will bear for fossil fuels, and not whole of life costs.

In summary, how am I supposed to switch to a “cheaper” tariff, when there is no equivalent, yet my current supplier is not the cheapest in the market? A free market economy is not the only solution to the problem, and it can’t fix everything. Like having no gas in the village even though we are within 15 miles of Gatwick – hardly the back of beyond.

Dave says:
22 August 2016

I don’t see the point in switching.
If you switch your supplier and get a good deal, I find that 6 to 12 months down the line your no better off than you were when you switched supplier.
Reason? because your new supplier puts their price up and your back to where you started from.
Whats the point?

The main saving by switching is moving from a standard variable tariff to a fixed price fixed term one. This lasts at least 12 months. I’ve been on such tariffs for years now, changing to the best one each year if necessary. I have saved substantially.

paul mitchell says:
26 August 2016

Your saving =someone else’s loss and it wont be suppliers. Change the name the game’s the same…Unregulated markets lead to parallel pricing and prices set by least competitive companies cost structures. All this switching malarky requires folks to be online, requires regular updating and renewal of passwords requires interminable waiting on call centre phones and so on and so forth. Perfect survival of the fittest. We have allowed the creation of a false and unfair market to prevail in daily necessities like utilities to the detriment of many in society

Yolanda Bentham says:
24 August 2016

Eon has a penalty if you leave before end and mine would have been £60 so was not sure about changing.

Yolanda, I prefer contracts without exit penalties; you can select this option when using the energy comparison site Which?Switch. If the fixed price deal you signed up to was reasonable it may well be best to wait until it expires before switching. If, by switching, you could save significantly more than £60 then it would be worthwhile. However, looking at a medium user you may well be on a decent deal. I’d check. You need your annual usage for gas and electricity (you can estimate this) and your post code.

John says:
27 August 2016

We switched in 1999 to a no nuclear or carbon energy supplier. Bit expensive but a great moral chioce

I switched to Ecotricity about six months ago, and I think they’re great.

So much better than my last two suppliers. I really liked the fact that, when I phoned Ecotricity, I got straight through to a person rather than one of those “press 1 for this, press 2 for that” systems. It felt really unusual not to be fobbed off with recorded messages for 5 minutes before managing to get to speak to a person.

Ecotricity are fantastic in terms of their green credentials too. Much better than the green tariffs you get with other suppliers.

If you are thinking of going for Ecotricity, use this refer-a-friend code RAF-K8B5V and you’ll get £50 worth of vouchers to use on Ecotopia. I used my vouchers to buy £50 worth of LED light bulbs, which will save me even more money.

Michele says:
4 February 2017

I used to change supplier but then discovered the new suppliers very quickly upped their prices, often within months. I’ve also discovered if you’re not dual fuel you don’t get the best deals either. I’m stuck with British gas for electricity only. I’m an all electric household. Did have a gas meter but had that taken out when British gas insisted I paid standing charges even though I had no gas appliances connected.

Have you thought of a fixed price contract with any supplier Michele ? Dont take BG as the “industry standard” on the “way to go” for electricity , I am with Co-op Power (Midlands ) and I am in my second year with them as I talked with them beforehand to get a fixed price for my energy supplies and negotiated the same deal as the year before.

Les Clarke says:
15 February 2017

I have been with EDF on various fixed term electricity contracts for over 10 years with great billing & customer service. ,Their fixed rate deals have always been the cheapest for me (or only a few pounds different – not worth switching). My current deal comes to an end in February 2017 and this time the EDF deal was not the cheapest . I rang them and gave them the chance to price match but they were not interested so I changed online to Co-Operative Energy with a fixed price deal to October 2018 and saved over £100. Changing was a very simple and smooth process and I would recommend everyone to use the comparison sites to test the market on a regular basis in order to see if it is worth changing. Reading company reviews it was very clear that the cheapest deal was not necessarily the best in terms of service and billing. Unfortunately we live off the national gas network so can’t get a dual fuel discount. How about doing something for those of us on LPG?

Janet O'Gorman says:
15 February 2017

I am on economy 10 and I cannot get another supplier who do it.

Dorothy Hailstone says:
29 January 2018

I still live in the same house which I bought over 46 years ago, when there was no gas supply in this area, so my house has always been an all electric house with storage radiators. I am quite happy with this, as I find them warm, clean and completely maintenance free. But this means that I have two meters: one for everyday domestic needs and one for the off-peak heating supply. Whenever I have considered changing my supplier I have been told that this system would have to be changed to ONE meter for all my power, presumably recording my night (off peak) power on the meter as my daytime power. Being very cynical, I feel that this would be an excuse to increase my bills overall. Am I unduly suspicious?

No Dorothy your right .

Dorothy, I suggest you go to https://switch.which.co.uk/index.html. This is the Which? site that lets you compare electricity costs and choose the best for you. There is an option to click – do you have an economy meter – and you can enter (actual or estimate) the % electricity used at night. This can be taken from your existing bills. You will be shown a long list of suppliers who offer dual rate tariffs. Please tell us if you do find what you want 🙂 You can switch to the supplier that suits you.