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Clare Francis: Around 50% of all households have never switched their energy supplier, even though you could make savings of up to £200 or even £300, and it literally needn't take more than a few minutes. Scott Byrom, who is the utilities expert here at moneysupermarket.com, is here to talk us through the process.
So Scott, can you just show us exactly how easy it is?
Scott Byrom: Okay, the first page you'll land on is the main homepage of moneysupermarket.com, so the first thing to do is then click on the '
You'll now land on the main homepage for the utilities channel, and the first thing you need to do is enter your postcode. This is really to ensure that our comparison tool brings back the specific rates for your region - obviously each region across the UK will have a different rate applied to it from each of the energy suppliers.
So we'll enter our postcode now, and in order to ensure we get 100% accurate comparison we're going to click on the 'detailed search' function. There is an alternative one, called 'quick search', but that's really just to get a quick idea and a quick view of the energy market. When you come to actually apply for the product, go for the detailed search.
Okay, you'll then land on what we call the 'enquiry page', and here you need to add your current supplier details. So using your latest energy bill you'll enter your current gas supplier and current electricity supplier - so that's who the supplier is, what tariff you're on, how you currently pay and what your spend or consumption is.
We'll leave them set as the default settings - which would be the core providers in those regions - and we'll say that our spending on our gas is £60 a month, and on the electricity we'll say the same as well. So we leave the field on the pound sign (£), and enter 60.
Clare Francis: And obviously if you've got a bill to hand it ensures you'll get a really accurate comparison, but if you haven't, most people know roughly how much they're spending?
Scott Byrom: Yes, if you've got a rough idea of what it [your consumption] is then obviously enter that in and then carry out a comparison.
At the bottom then, we've got how do you want to pay - obviously the best way to pay for your energy is a monthly direct debit, make sure you get the cheapest price as possible. It also spreads the cost of your bill out across the 12 month period.
Clare Francis: Because a lot of people are getting a shock aren't they, when they get their winter fuel bills come through if they're paying quarterly...
SB: Yes, if you're paying quarterly cash or cheque, then bills of probably £500 are probably starting to come through the letterbox.
'Are you currently a dual fuel customer' - no, both our electricity and gas come from separate suppliers. 'What type of product' - we'll leave that as all, but there are options to look at green, capped, fixed or online / internet products.
CF: And the online / internet only deals tend to be the cheapest, don't they?
SB: They do, yes, and in terms of managing your energy account as well they're the best, basically because they help you enter actual meter readings into a secured account, so by doing that it means that your energy bills remain as accurate as possible.
CF: They're really easy to operate aren't they?
SB: Very easy. Okay, once you've pressed 'proceed' on the previous page you'll then land on the results page which will show you all the best products currently available to you.
At the top there'll be a 'best buy' box where what we'll show you is the best product that's currently available to you. Obviously what we've just entered in there was just standard figures, and already looking at the cheapest product there, there's savings of £355.
SB: Significant savings to be made. Okay, so we'll go with the cheapest one - obviously we want to make the biggest savings - so we'll click on the 'apply' button.
Okay, so now we're at the application page. At the top we just need the customer to enter their name, email address, date of birth, telephone number - that type of thing.
CF: And you actually apply for it on moneysupermarket.com, and then it gets sent through to the provider?
SB: Then it gets sent through. On other channels it would be a click through to the provider's website. On the utilities channel, as it is for all comparison sites, they host the application page and then it's sent through. So within 24 hours, in a secure format - so all your details are encrypted - it automatically goes through to the provider and straight onto their systems and begins the process.
So the first thing on all application pages are your personal details - so your name, date of birth, employment status, residential status. Some suppliers will have different questions that will need the customers to enter. Obviously we're applying for E.On on this occasion, so we'll enter in the details.
Okay, so we've filled in the personal details section. Next up is the 'supply address' - you've already entered your post code at the front end, so now just choose your house number.
'Current telephone number' - obviously if there's any issues the energy supplier can then contact you - and 'is the billing address the same as the supply address.'
There's also a question there - 'additional information' - which will ask things like mother's maiden name, anything like that. That's really for if you are applying for an online product as we have done. It's to help them set up an account, so they'll be using that for that.
If we scroll further down for the payment details, we've opted to pay by monthly direct debit, so what day of the month would you prefer the payment to go out on, the account holders name, sort code and account number.
The next stage then is the terms and conditions. If you click on the 'terms and conditions', that will take you through to the suppliers terms and conditions for that product. You will also get sent a copy of that in the post once you have applied. You have also got the bit about marketing as well - if you want to opt in to moneysupermarket.com to send out a weekly rate alert, things like that.
We'll then click proceed, and that's the application done.
CF: So once you've completed the application form online, what happens then? Is it just a matter of waiting?
SB: The application will be sent through as we've mentioned before. So it will go through to the supplier, then they will start the process of getting that pushed through. What you'll then receive is a welcome pack really, so a letter from the supplier to say 'we're talking control of your account', and idea of how long it's going to take, and also confirmation of the cool-off period that you'll face. So the cool-off period ranges from seven to 14 days, and that really gives the customer an opportunity if they think, 'I want to stay where I am' or 'I want to go to somewhere else' - they can phone up and cancel the application at that stage. You will get a welcome pack from the supplier, which is like an acknowledgement that the application has gone through.
CF: I've just switched recently so I know this, but you're also told the date that the transfer will actually happen, aren't you?
SB: Yes so what happens is - this is the reasons we need accurately what your current supplier is - when your applications goes through to the new supplier, they'll then contact your current suppliers and say 'Clare's contacted us and wants to move over to us, we'll take control of her energy account'. They'll then negotiate and agree on a switchover date, so a date when the supplier will take complete control of your energy supply.
CF: And once that happens, what happens then? Your new provider has taken over, you have to give a final meter reading don't you?
SB: You do, yes. I'd advise really to do it to both suppliers just to help the process along. So once you've go that date of when it'll change over, as soon as that date comes along, phone your current supplier - so who you're still with at the moment - and give them an actual meter reading for your gas and electricity, and do the same for your new provider, just give them a call. That then makes sure that, at that specific reading, your new rates will be charged at the new product you've applied for. There won't be any delays, there's no cutting off of your energy supply, it's all the same pipes and all that type of stuff, so there's no delay.
CF: From start to finish, so from the minute you go onto the website, put in your details and apply, to the date that the changeover switch happens, roughly on average how long is that going to take?
SB: It normally takes four to six weeks. It can vary, obviously if you're already with a supplier you're applying for, and then it'll go through a lot quicker, maybe a week or two. But generally we say 4 to 6 weeks for the full switchover to take place.
CF: Because some people might not actually have to change provider might they, it might just be a matter of changing from the standard tariff to the best online deal?
SB: Exactly. I mean, British Gas on our website, for example, you might be with them for standard and applying to their cheapest product, which is Websaver 1, and if you did that, they'd switch over a lot quicker.
CF: So it really is simple, and the other great thing about most energy products is that your not tied in are you, so you can switch at any time?
SB: Unless you're applying for a fixed product obviously - again you're not tied in as such, but there will be a termination fee that will be applicable, so anywhere up to £100.
But there's still what's known as the '28 day rule' within the energy industry, which means that as long as you give 28 days notice, you can then change to another supplier. I mean, we'd advise customers to change maybe twice a year to make sure they're on the best deal possible.
CF: And when you see how easy it is, there's no excuse is there?
SB: Exactly, 3 minutes max!
CF: Thank you Scott.
SB: Thank you.