Switching Energy Suppliers
Energy industry regulator Ofgem says the majority of gas and electricity customers have never switched providers, and our research shows that Brits collectively throw away £3.5billion a year by not switching to a better deal.
With energy prices frequently being raised, it makes sense to make sure you're on the cheapest possible deal.
Why should you switch utility suppliers?
If you have separate providers for your gas and electricity and pay standard prices for each, you will almost certainly save by switching as you're likely to be paying the most for your energy.
Switching either your gas or electricity so that you get both from the same supplier will qualify you for dual fuel discount. Choose to manage your account online and pay by Direct Debit and you could benefit from even further discounts.
Switch energy supplier in 5 simple steps
If you simply stuck with the provider you 'inherited' from the previous occupants of your home when you moved in, you may not be on the best deal for you. The tariff might have been suitable for them and you m ay be getting a dual fuel discount, but there may be money to be saved by switching.
A lot of households moved either their gas or electricity to a new supplier when the energy industry was privatised, so that they had the same provider for both. While these people will benefit from a dual fuel discount, they are likely to be paying standard prices and could save by switching to a more competitive tariff.
How do I switch my gas and electricity?
If you want to save money by switching your utilities suppliers, it couldn't be easier. Here's a run-down of everything you'll need to get switching.
Firstly, you'll need to provide your address so that we can pinpoint your supply region. You'll also need to tell us the name of your current supplier or suppliers, your current payment method and the name of the tariff or tariffs you're currently on. If you're unsure of your tariff names, contact your supplier and ask or check your last bill.
It's important to provide details of how you pay your bills because customers on prepayment meters can only apply for a prepayment tariff, whereas those on a billing meter can apply for any billing tariff.
To make sure you get the best possible deal based on your current energy usage, we'll need to know your annual kWh consumption. In some instances this can be more accurate than basing the comparison on how much you pay for your energy, as you may be it may not be a true reflection of your consumption if your account is in credit or debit.
If you don't know your annual kWh usage, contact your current supplier or suppliers and ask for it. If you've not yet been with the suppliers for a full year and can't provide your annual kWh usage, an estimate can be made based on your payments to the account - but won't be as accurate.
Alternatively, an estimate can be given based on whether you are classed as a low, medium or high energy consumer. According to Ofgem, a "low user" consumes 1,650 kWh of electricity and 10,000 kWh of gas a year; a "medium user" consumes 3,300 kWh of electricity and 16,500 kWh of gas; and a "high user" consumes 4,950 kWh of electricity and 28,000 kWh of gas.
A low user is generally a single person, or young couple, living in a one-bedroom flat whereas a medium user is more likely to be a couple or small family with a semi-detached house. A high user is typically a larger family living in a detached home with three or more bedrooms.
The government plans to install 'smart-meters' in every UK home by 2020, which will relay consumption information to the suppliers in real-time.
If you have a billing meter, you'll be given the option of how you would like to pay your bills. Remember that paying by Direct Debit usually qualifies you for a discount and ensures you never miss a payment.
You'll also be given the option of a variable or fixed rate tariff. With variable tariffs, your bills can go up or down depending on energy prices. In August 2011, all of the Big Six energy companies (npower, Scottish Power, EDF, British Gas, SSE and E.On) raised their prices and those on a variable tariff would have noticed the increase.
On the other hand, the Big Six all announced price cuts in January 2012, and so those on a variable tariff would have seen their bills drop slightly.
If you're on a fixed rate tariff, your price per unit for gas and electricity is locked down for a set period. This can be a good way to defend yourself against price hikes, but it could leave you paying more if there were significant price cuts.
You may have the option of a green energy tariff, designed to lower carbon emissions and be friendlier to the environment. Green energy comes from renewable sources which don't rely on fossil fuels. They include things like solar energy, wind energy, biomass and hydroelectricity.
What happens next?
Once you've decided which tariff will save you money, you'll need to either fill in the application online or speak to an advisor at MoneySupermarket.com, who will ask you questions and fill in the application for you, based on your answers. Be aware that not all providers allow applications by phone.
Your application is then sent to the new provider within 24 hours to start the switching process. If you should change your mind after requesting the switch, you'll have a 'cooling off' period or around 12 to 14 days in which to stop it going through.
The cooling off period will vary from one provider to another, and with some it can be less than seven days, so make sure to ask if it isn't apparent during the application.
If you don't cancel the switch, you'll receive the new contract and terms and conditions within 10 days of the application. Some providers will also send out an email confirmation of the switch.
Once the cooling off period has ended, the new provider will contact your old provider to start the switching process, which takes between four and eight weeks.
If you pay by Direct Debit, you'll need to leave this alone for time being. Your final meter reading will be taken and a final bill issued based on that reading. If your account is in debit, your old provider will ask for payment in full. If your account is in credit you'll get the money paid back to you.
Your new supplier will contact you to confirm the start date of the new supply and details of when the first payment will be required.
Why switch with MoneySupermarket?
MoneySupermarket's comparison and switching service is free to use and independent and we strive to get the best possible deals to save your household money.
Unlike some energy comparison sites, we compare the prices of all the big energy suppliers, so you can get a comprehensive view of the market.
Frequently asked questions
Will a plumber be involved in the switch?
No, when you switch your supplier there won't be any need for anyone to install any new cables or pipes - in fact there will be no physical changes to your property at all. You won't even be disconnected at any point during the switch-over.
Should I cancel my old Direct Debit?
You shouldn't cancel your old Direct Debit straight after going through the switching application. You need to wait until after your last meter reading has been taken and you've received your final bill from the old supplier.
Can I change from a pre-payment meter to billing meter?
You may find some suppliers insist that you meet a set of criteria before moving you from a prepayment meter to a billing meter - such as proving that you have held a current account for a certain amount of time.
Contact the supplier directly and ask for their requirements are and be aware that there may be a charge for switching from one type of meter to the other.
What if I change my mind about switching?
If you complete an application to switch and then change your mind about switching suppliers, for whatever reason, you can cancel the switch during the cooling off period, which can be as long as two weeks after applying. Check with the new supplier how long their cooling off period is.
How does MoneySupermarket make money on switches?
MoneySupermarket receives a commission from the new supplier for every switch, allowing us to offer the switching service to you for free. The commission we receive does not affect our comparison service or the price you pay however - your comparison will always offer the cheapest option for you.
Can everyone save by switching?
You may actually already be getting the cheapest electricity and gas prices and so you won't benefit from switching energy suppliers. Use our energy price comparison to find out.
How often can I switch energy suppliers?
As long as you're not in a fixed rate tariff for a set amount of time, you can switch as frequently as you like.
Can I get my gas and electricity from one supplier?
Yes - in fact doing so will earn you a duel fuel discount.
How do I arrange Monthly Direct Debit payments with the new supplier?
You'll get a welcome pack from your new supplier including useful information and contact details. It will also contain forms for setting up payment via Direct Debit.
What is Economy 7?
Economy 7 is a tariff which features gas prices and electricity prices which drop over a seven hour period overnight. You can switch to an Economy 7 tariff but it may involve a change of meter and a charge for the new meter.
What should I do if I have a complaint?
First and foremost, you should take your complaint up with the supplier. If your complaint is not satisfactorily dealt with, you should speak to Consumer Focus - the independent gas and electricity watchdog. They can be contacted on 0207 799 7900 or found online at www.consumerfocus.org.uk.
Can I trust MoneySupermarket with my personal details?
Yes, our site is protected with VeriSign security so any data you share with us when you compare gas and electricity prices or when you are switching energy suppliers is handled and stored securely.
Moneysupermarket.com is the data controller in relation to your personal data. Our registered address is Moneysupermarket.com House, St David's Park, Ewloe, Nr Chester, CH5 3UZ. If you have any queries relating to our use of your personal data or any other data protection issues, please contact our data protection officer at DPO@moneysupermarket.com.
What about my bank details?
Your bank details will be encrypted before they are sent to the new supplier. If the deal you switch to has any cash-back promotion, we will securely store your bank details so that we can pay the cash-back to you, after which they will be deleted.
How does our service rating work?
Our service ratings are compiled from: individual provider information about price, availability, product range and investment in vulnerable customers. The service ratings also take into account the individual fuel mixes of each supplier in relation to CO2 emissions and energy generated from renewable sources.
Finally, the ratings take into account figures taken from reports provided by Consumer Focus on billing and transfer complaints from December 2007 to February 2008.
How does the calculator work?
Our calculator estimates your current energy usage based on your annual kWh usage, bill amount or Low/Medium/High user data you input.
It takes (or calculates) your current kWh usage by comparing the data you supply to the unit costs associated with your current tariff. Next, this is multiplied against the Kwh unit costs of other tariffs provided by other suppliers in your area.
Any additional savings offered by the supplier based on payment types are also taken into account. The estimated annual savings figure is calculated by subtracting the cost of the other tariffs with alternative suppliers from your current costs.
How do you calculate my annual savings?
Why show a negative saving?
If the calculator shows a negative saving, this means you're already on the cheapest possible tariff for your usage and area. You will not save money by switching in this instance.
Why do you show my existing provider?
Your current utilities provider may actually have a tariff which would save you money. If the results show your existing provider then they offer a cheaper tariff based on the information you supplied.
How do I switch my gas and electricity?
First, navigate to this page and input your postcode. You'll then be asked to input your current gas and electricity supply details, as well as how you prefer to pay for your energy.
We then search the market and return a table of results with the cheapest at the top. Details about additional savings and green energy will also be displayed.
Finally, when you've decided which supplier to switch to, click apply and you'll be taken to an application form to complete in order to start the switching process.
If you'd prefer to speak to someone and switch over the phone, call us on 0845 345 1296. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm.
How long will it take to switch suppliers?
The switching process takes between four and six weeks from the date you apply.
Will my supply be interrupted?
There will be no interruption to your supply and no physical work has to be done to your home to make the switch.
If I switch, do I need to contact my current energy supplier?
No, your new supplier will take care of that and will contact you directly to get a final meter reading for your old supplier.
How can I find out who my current suppliers are?
If you have a recent bill or letter, your old supplier's name will be at the top. If you don't have a letter or bill, contact the meter number helpline on 0870 608 1524 to find your gas supplier.
To find your electricity supplier click here for a list of numbers dedicated to your region.
Can I switch if I am in debt with my current supplier?
Your current supplier can decline the switch if you owe them money. You should clear any existing debts with them before switching. If you've always paid by Direct Debit they'll just take the amount you owe automatically.
Will special needs services be provided by my new energy supplier?
Customers with special needs will continue to be catered for after switching. All suppliers have to comply with industry standards which dictate how they must treat elderly, disabled, ill or otherwise vulnerable customers.
What should I do if I discover a gas leak or a problem with my electricity after switching?
Emergency procedures are the same no matter who supplies your gas and electricity. When you switch you'll get a 24-hour emergency helpline number for reporting these things.
National Grid is responsible for dealing with gas emergencies. To report a problem with your gas supply, call 0800 111 999.
Who is Consumer Focus?
Consumer Focus is the independent watchdog for energy consumers. They have been protecting the interests of gas and electricity customers since 2000 and are completely independent of the industry and the regulator Ofgem.
I have a pre-payment meter, can I save money too?
You may be able to find a better deal, but you may also have to pay for a new meter to be installed, which cost upwards of £100 - which could negate any savings you might make by switching to a cheaper tariff.
You may also have to undergo a credit check to assess your eligibility for the new tariff before you are accepted.
What is the difference between fixed and capped price energy?
A fixed price tariff means the cost per unit will not change throughout the course of your contract. A capped price tariff won't ever exceed the price you bought at but it can get cheaper if the supplier decide to pass on wholesale price drops.
How do you define high, medium and low usage?
We use the rankings published by Consumer Focus, which are as follows:
User Avg. Electricity Consumption* (Kwh) Approximate Annual Spend*
Low User 1650 £251
Medium User 3300 £440
High User 4950 £629
User Avg. Gas Consumption* (Kwh) Approximate Annual Spend*
Low User 10000 £438
Medium User 20500 £786
High User 28000 £1035
User Avg. Fuel Consumption (Kwh) Approximate Annual Spend*
Low User 11650 £682
Medium User 23800 £1216
High User 32950 £1652
We derive your annual average spend by factoring an average kWh usage against your current tariff.
What do I need to switch energy suppliers online?
You'll need to have details about your current address, energy supplier(s) and payment method. You'll also need to know the name of the tariff you're currently on. If you don't know it, get in touch with your supplier. If you don't know who your current supplier is, see 'How can I find out who my current supplier is?'
Finally, to get the most accurate comparison we'll need to know your annual kWh usage. You can get this figure from your current supplier. If you've not yet been with your supplier for a year we can estimate it based on your monthly spend, but it won't be as accurate.