However, under new rules announced by the government, energy firms will have to let customers know if they could save money by switching to a better tariff.

For the first time, the Big Six energy companies will have to tell consumers if they are missing out on a better gas and electricity deal in an annual statement.

The plans are set to shake up the energy industry and help the estimated 12.3million households which have never switched energy deal to save money.

Here’s a look at the government’s plans, what the Big Six have agreed to and how it will make switching energy deals easier.

Landmark deal

In what the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is calling a “landmark deal”, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE have each agreed to offer their customers the best tariff available based on their annual energy usage.

The plans are expected to come into effect in the autumn, after which customers will receive an annual letter pointing them towards a better deal if there is one.

One million vulnerable customers – including the elderly and those helped by the Warm Home Discount Scheme will receive the letter twice a year.

The energy companies will also be obliged to recommend a more suitable deal to customers reaching the end of their contracts and those that contact their suppliers and ask if they could save by switching.

Who will save money?

MoneySupermarket research shows that £3.5billion is going up in smoke each year because so many people are overpaying for their gas and electricity. The average household could save £220 a year by switching to a cheaper deal.

Industry regulator Ofgem says the majority of households have never switched their energy providers. Under the new plans, it is expected that energy suppliers will only have to recommend their own best tariffs and not those offered by other suppliers.

This means it’s still going to be important to shop around for the best deal because another supplier might be offering a better deal than your current supplier’s best deal.

How do I switch?

You don’t need to wait for Mr Clegg’s plans to come into force to see if you can get a better deal on your gas and electricity.

Our energy comparison service will show you if you can save money by switching to a new supplier or tariff. All you need to provide is your current address, the name of your supplier or suppliers, the names of the tariffs you’re on and your current payment method.

You’ll find all of these details on your energy bills, but if you don’t have any you can call the meter number helpline on 0870 608 1524 to find out who your supplier is. Once you know the name of your supplier, you can get all the relevant details you need to switch from them.

To make sure we show you the best deal we’ll also need to know your annual kWh consumption. You can get this figure from your current energy supplier. If you’ve not yet been with them for a full year, we can do comparison based on how much you pay for your energy, but this will be less accurate.

Next it’s as simple as choosing the cheapest tariff and filling in an online application, or speaking to an advisor at MoneySupermarket – who will ask you questions and guide you through the process. You can speak to our energy team by calling 0845 345 1296. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am until 5.30pm.

What happens next?

Your application is sent to the new provider within 24 hours and the switching process begins. If you change your mind you can cancel the process within the first two weeks, or sometimes less – depending on the supplier.

After this period, the new supplier will contact your old supplier to arrange the switch – which takes between four and eight weeks.

If you pay by Direct Debit, leave that alone for the time being. A final meter reading will be taken and you’ll receive a final bill from the old supplier based on that reading.

Your new supplier will then contact you with all of the details of the new tariff and useful information like when the supply starts, when your first bill will arrive and how to contact them.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.