This is the case whether you’re buying or renting, and whether you’ve got an existing energy deal or not.
To answer some of the most common queries, we assembled a panel of leading energy experts and hosted an internet ‘webchat’ on Wednesday 21 October, using the hashtag #EnergyQs.
Here’s our expert panel – while below are a selection of the questions they answered during the webchat…
Gillian is head of retail energy markets at Citizens Advice, the charity that took on statutory energy consumer representation functions in April 2014.
David is managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents.
Patrick is policy advisor on retail markets and consumers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Stephen is energy commercial manager at MoneySuperMarket
Stephen tackled a question many people wanted to ask: Why is it such a good idea to switch energy tariff when moving?
When you move, your old energy tariff you are on doesn't move with you. So moving property will usually mean you are put on the standard (expensive) tariff of the supplier who already supplies your new house. So it's a very good idea to switch your tariff when you move in. Remember – there will be no interruption to supply or any work at the property (inside or out) when you switch.
Ruth in Lincolnshire had a simple but important question for Patrick at DECC: How do I know what my deal is?
You can find the name of your current tariff on your bill. You just need that, your postcode and your annual usage details (which are also on the bill) to make an accurate comparison with other tariffs through a price comparison website such as MoneySuperMarket.
I took the opportunity to ask David at the Association of Residential Letting Agents about switching for renters…
If you’re renting and you are responsible for paying the energy bill, then you can switch energy supplier. It’s a good idea to check with your landlord or agent first if you wish to switch but they are not allowed to withhold consent unless they have a good reason. Energy contracts are between tenants and suppliers, not landlords and suppliers. Therefore, it’s the tenant’s choice who they have as their energy supplier.
LB asked Gillian from Citizen’s Advice: Can you switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter in a rented house?
Yes, you should be able to. Some companies may ask you to pass a credit check before they agree to switch you to a credit meter, or to pay a security deposit. Not all companies do this so you might need to shop around. In some cases, your rental contract might state that you need to seek your landlord's permission before changing from a prepayment to a credit meter.
David thought it would be useful to answer another common query: Do landlords earn commission if they make me use a pay-as-you-go/prepayment meter?
Unless a landlord tells you before you move in that they are taking a commission, landlords cannot take any commission from a prepayment/pay-as-you-go meter. For a landlord to take commission, they must set themselves up as a formal energy supplier otherwise taking commission would be illegal.
And what about switching if the tenant pays an all-inclusive rent that wraps up energy bills and rent itself?
In these cases, the energy contract is between the landlord and the energy company. So, it will be up to the landlord rather than the tenant to switch.
Another comment renters’ query: What's the situation if I'm in a block of flats? Do we all need to use the same supplier?
No, you don't, said David. Each flat can have a different supplier. If you are buying a new-build property, the developer will usually have put all the properties with one energy company. Once you move in, you should switch to the best energy provider for your needs.
Gillian at Citizen’s Advice was asked: If I'm renting, do I have access to a full range of tariffs?
Yes, you do. If you are responsible for your energy bills as a tenant, then you have the full range of tariffs to choose from (according to your meter type – prepayment or credit).
Patrick fielded another fundamental question for all energy customers from JohnT: Is there a limit on the number of times I can switch?
No, there isn't a limit, so if you can make a saving and your current tariff doesn't have exit fees that would exceed that saving, then go ahead.
Patrick also responded to a question that came in various guides: If a customer is in debt with their energy supplier, can they still switch?
You will need to settle any outstanding bills with your existing supplier as part of the switching process, but this will usually be in the form of a final bill after you've completed the switch. If you are paying off debt through a prepayment meter you can transfer up to £500 of debt for each fuel, gas and electricity when you switch, and pay off that debt through your new supplier.
Finally, MarkT asked Stephen whether it is always best to have gas and electricity with the same supplier…
Most customers choose the convenience of having one supplier, with one bill/direct debit amount. It’s also possible – though not inevitable – that you’ll make significant savings by having what is usually referred to as a 'dual fuel' deal, including additional discounts.
You can sometimes make savings by having separate suppliers for gas and electricity. You can use the filters on the MoneySuperMarket results page to look at separate deals for each fuel.