Switching energy supplier - your questions answered
Will I save money if I switch energy supplier?
The average energy bill in the UK is over £1,200 a year, but the cheapest tariff comes in at less than £1,000, so there are big potential savings to be made.
MoneySuperMarket figures show that 51% of customers could save up to £180 on their annual energy bill by switching, though the exact amount depends on where you live and your energy consumption.
How do I find the cheapest tariff?
MoneySuperMarket's comparison service carries the details of all the main suppliers and their tariffs, so it's quick and easy to search for a good energy deal.
Our site is also accredited by the Ofgem Confidence Code, which means you can be sure the information is accurate, up-to-date and independent.
If you would prefer to speak to one of our expert energy advisers, simply call 0800 177 7861.
How can I protect myself from going in debt or credit on my energy bills?
Can I fix my energy prices?
Yes. There are a number of fixed tariffs, which are often cheaper than variable deals.
They are also great if you are on a tight budget and want to protect against future energy price hikes. However, bear in mind that customers on fixed deals do not benefit from any price drops.
Watch out, too, for termination fees if you want to switch to a different tariff before the fix expires. More on this below.
Is it cheaper to get both gas and electricity from the same supplier?
Suppliers offer so-called 'dual fuel' discounts to encourage customers to sign up for both gas and electricity. This kind of discount makes the price lower than the cost of buying gas and electricity separately from that provider. BUT it is important to compare dual fuel deals against the price of getting electricity from one provider and gas from another. Buying 'single' tariffs for each fuel might work out cheaper, although it would mean you'd have two different suppliers, two bills and two points of contact.
What information do I need when I switch?
We will need to know your postcode as well as details of your supplier, current tariff and energy consumption. You should be able to find all the information on your latest bill.
What if I don't know my energy usage?
If you haven't got a bill to hand, our estimation tool can come up with an accurate estimate based on the type of house, number of rooms and size of your family.
You can also use our estimation tool if you have only recently moved into a property, unless you can ask the previous occupants for the relevant details.
What happens next?
When you have chosen a tariff, you'll be asked to complete another short form, which is sent to the new supplier you have chosen. You will then be given a switching date, and the new supplier will ask for meter readings in order to calculate your bills.
The readings will also be passed on to the old supplier so that you can settle any outstanding debts.
What if I am in credit with my old supplier?
If you are in credit when you switch supplier, the money should be refunded to your account. But it's worth keeping an eye out for the payment and chasing it up if necessary.
Will it cost me anything to switch?
Depending on the tariff you are on at the moment, you might have to pay a termination fee to your old supplier if you want to switch before the end of a fixed-term contract.
The details of your tariff should be on your bill or on your supplier's website, including details of any termination fees. Suppliers usually charge a termination fee for each type of fuel.
For example, if you want to switch from a two-year fix after 18 months, the supplier could charge a termination fee, perhaps of £25 per fuel. So, if you wanted to switch from a dual fuel tariff where you received both gas and electricity from the same provider, you would in this case pay £50.
You might be able to avoid the fee if you are coming to the end of a fixed-term contract. Energy firms must give between 42 and 49 days' notice of the end of the contract and, if you decide to switch after receiving notice, there should be no termination charge.
Should I pay by direct debit?
Yes - managing your account online and paying by monthly direct debit is usually the cheapest way to obtain your energy. Paying by direct debit rather than by cash or cheque each quarter could save you around £70 a year.
How long does it take to switch?
It used to take anything up to six weeks to switch, but this has come down to 17 days, thanks to pressure from the government and the market regulator. This includes a two-week 'cooling off' period during which you are able to change your mind and stop the switch process.
Will there by any disruption to my energy supply?
No. It's a simple procedure that does not require any new plumbing or re-wiring. In fact, you should not notice any difference, apart from lower costs.
What if I change my mind?
There is a cooling-off period of 14 days. In other words, if you change your mind within 14 days you can cancel the switch without penalty.
How often can I switch my energy tariff?
You can switch as often as you like, though you should take into account any termination fees. Most suppliers also carry out a credit check on potential customers that could affect your credit record.
However, it's not usually anything to worry about unless you are simultaneously applying for several credit cards or loans.
I rent my property. Can I still switch?
Tenants can switch their energy tariff as long as they pay their bills direct to the supplier. You might still be able to switch if you pay the landlord for your energy, but you would normally have to seek his or her agreement.
Can I switch if I have a pre-payment meter?
Yes, though you will probably have to switch to another pre-payment tariff.
I am in debt to my supplier. Can I still switch?
If you have pre-payment meter, you can switch as long as the debt is less than £500.
If you pay by cheque, cash or direct debit, it depends on the supplier and you should contact them for more details.
Is it all about the money?
Most people choose to switch to save money on their energy bills. But you should also cast your eye over our customer reviews to get some idea of a firm's standard of service.
Can I switch an Economy 7 tariff?
Economy 7 customers pay two different rates for their electricity - and have a special two-rate meter.
The tariff works best if you have night storage heaters because the night rate is much lower than the day rate. Most of the big suppliers offer Economy 7 tariffs and you can switch from one to the other.
You could also consider switching to a standard tariff, though you would need to have the meter replaced.
How do I make a complaint?
You should first contact the energy company directly as it should follow strict guidelines on handling complaints. If the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction within eight weeks, or you reach deadlock with the energy firm, you can contact the Ombudsman Services: Energy, a free independent service.
How does MoneySuperMarket make money on energy switches?
We are paid a fee by an energy supplier if someone compares prices on our energy channel, clicks through to the company, and switches their supply to them. But if the switch doesn't go ahead, we don't get paid.
Some energy providers ask us to help them retain customers. So in this instance we receive a fee if someone switches to a different tariff with the same company.
Do we really compare the whole of the energy market?
We work with every energy company in the UK to ensure all our prices are accurate. This means we can give you an accurate estimate of what your bill would be with any energy company. This shows you what you could save by switching.
- If a tariff has a green 'Apply Now' button, you can click through, complete the application form and switch to that energy company. Remember, if you complete the switch, we are paid a fee.
- If the 'Apply Now' button is grey, you cannot click through to switch. To obtain that tariff, you may need to visit the energy company's website directly, or ring them.
The energy industry rules mean energy companies can't offer cheaper prices than those you see on our site. So you can be confident you won't find these tariffs cheaper anywhere else.
How do our relationships with energy companies affect our service to you?
We subscribe to a code of practice called the Confidence Code which is operated by Ofgem, the industry regulator. This represents our promise to put customers first.
*51% consumers, MoneySuperMarket data, December 2014