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Nick Boles MP: is switching painful or painless for you?

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Do you regularly switch energy supplier, bank or mobile provider? Or are you held back? Here’s Nick Boles MP on why the Government’s working to improve switching.

Let’s face it, switching suppliers is often a nightmare.

I recently tried to switch gas and electricity suppliers. I went onto a price comparison website and found a new supplier who it appeared would save me hundreds of pounds a year. I was told I’d hear from them within a few days. But months later, I hadn’t heard a dicky bird and was still paying over the odds for my heating and light.

I then had to go through the whole process again. Only this time, thanks to the persistence of someone at the website’s call centre, it finally worked.

Six switching principles

Everyone has a horror story to tell of trying to change banks or mobile phone provider. Only a few lucky people can relate great examples of this working just as they’re meant to.

The Government wants to make switching easier for everyone, so we’ve come up with six basic principles which we think all industries and suppliers should adopt. These are:

  1. It should be free, unless you’re aware of and have consented to fair charges
  2. It should be quick
  3. You should only have to deal with the new company
  4. You should be able to access your data
  5. Comparison tools should be transparent if they receive payments from suppliers
  6. There should be an effective process for when things go wrong

Switching principlesI’d love to hear your switching stories, positive and negative, and have you tell us what you think about our switching principles. We also have a short survey open until 4 December – your views will help us making switching better.

If you’ve switched before, was it quick and easy for you? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

This is a guest contribution by Consumer Minister Nick Boles MP. All opinions are Nick’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Richard says:
19 November 2015

No corporation has any loyalty to speak of to its customers, it’s all based on getting you through the door then not caring, i change insurers almost yearly, some such as aviva i wouldn’t touch, considering their assessment methods dodgy or just wrong, i have personally caught barlays staff lying to me about my dealing, plus having worked for them in the past i think they care about their customers not a whit, needless to say i don’t deal with them, martin lewis has been very helpful switching energy getting better prices and cashback, i have so far baulked at broadband change, though i just find bt expensive and careless.
the change process has so far gone smoothly, but i am always very wary, and distrustful

AG Jenkins says:
19 November 2015

I avoid switching as I am sure that it would cause nothing but problems. What is worse, is that when something goes wrong “online” or “electronically” it is almost impossible to put it right

Heather says:
22 November 2015

When I switched, my account with my existing supplier, Scottish Power, was £304.79 in credit. Retaining £304.79 credit actually contravenes their promises on their web site that they will refund any credit balances over your monthly direct debit charge.
The charges for the final bills come to £45.80, so they owe me £258.99. The final bills which they issued were wrong and stated that I had only £211.85 in credit instead of £258.99. It is now over six weeks since I switched supplier and they have still not refunded a penny.
When I complained, they simply told me what the final meter readings were and what to do if I disputed them. I have never disputed the final meter readings because I took them myself.
They did not address the complaint I actually made.


Ah ha ! Heather – You have just hit a sore point with 10000,s of UK users of Scottish Power. On another website (a competitor of Which ) which I will not name for obvious reasons a whole year was devoted to Scottish Power for exactly the same reasons -keeping your money and using the interest to up the profits of the company . Public outcry was so great that its posters voted SP the WORST power company in the UK . I thought they had stopped this illegal practice ,but obviously not , why was I involved on that site ?? because I too was being used the same way it took 3 months and constant phone calls/emails to get retribution and a move to another provider . As some might not believe me I will only quote the initials of the website TP and check out if I am telling the truth and have posted a complaint on it a long time ago.


I switch providers of utilities, insurance and financial services at the end of each ‘contract’ period.
Incentives are always aimed at new custom not loyalty which provides the profit to pay the incentives.
All providers rely upon the apathy of most customers in not wishing to engage in their dishonourable retention methods but rarely is there a problem if you use the various ‘independent’ switch services and ensure your own quick response to information requests and direct debit authorisations.
Remember to cancel dd to ‘old’ supplier once the last dd is taken.


Davy, it’s worth looking at fixed price energy deals before the end of the “contract” period. In many cases now their is no penalty for leaving the contract for a better deal. These can, and do, change with an existing provider two or three times within a 12 month period and the switch to them is pretty well instant. i’ve changed twice in the last year to save around £120.


Online switching services have charges, which were debated in an earlier Conversation. Which? Switch charges between £15 and £45 and other services up to £60. No-one pays a charge for switching, so the charges are shared by all consumers. That means that those who stay with the same supplier subsidise those who switch regularly.


I have advocated that we do not need multiple “commercial” switching services, but that we should have a national one for energy run, say, by Ofgem, that has all suppliers and their tariffs for consumers to make their choice.

You do not have to, nor do you need to, use a comparison site to switch. You can look for the best deal and then go direct to the chosen energy company. Switching tariffs within your existing company does not attract these costs.