Switch your energy faster!

Energy firms have responded to government pressure and committed to halving the length of time it takes to switch suppliers by the end of the year.

But some are ahead of the game and are already introducing faster switching.

The government first announced plans to make it faster and easier to switch energy suppliers back in April, signalling that it wanted the switching process chopped from around five weeks to 17 days.

This includes a two-week ‘cooling-off’ period (when you can change your mind after signing-up to a new deal), followed by a three-day period where the actual switch takes place.

In a recent survey, we found that 51% of MoneySuperMarket customers had changed energy provider in the past 12 months - so it's great news that switching is being streamlined. There's clearly an appetite among consumers to land the best possible deal.

Which suppliers are leading the charge?

Energy regulator Ofgem told suppliers to have their IT systems ready for faster switching by November 10.

This doesn’t mean they’re all able to comply with the 17-day timings just yet, however – and Ofgem has allowed for a period of testing. But by the end of December, all suppliers should all have reduced their switching times.

We asked some of the biggest suppliers when we can expect faster switching.

SSE: Customers have been able to switch in 17 days since November 5.

First Utility: Anyone moving to First Utility from November 10 will benefit from a 17-day faster switching process, regardless of the readiness of their current supplier.
British Gas is completing final tests on its systems, but customers should be able to switch to the company in 17 days by mid-November. A spokesman wouldn’t confirm an exact date, but said it “certainly wouldn’t be later than November.”

Eon hopes its processing systems will be adjusted to cope with faster switching by early November. A spokesman said; “Then from January we will have in place the steps needed to help customers join quicker."

Npower is working towards the end-of-December deadline. A spokesman said: “Faster switching will definitely happen before the end of the year, but we can’t be more specific about a date at this stage.”

Scottish Power is working towards introducing faster switching by the end of the year. No specific date announced.

EDF Energy: A spokesman would not confirm a specific date when faster switching would be introduced, but said; “We’re working to ensure customers benefit from this as early as possible this winter.”

What if companies miss the deadline for faster switching?

From this August, new Ofgem rules came into effect meaning suppliers could face investigation and fines if they do not enable customers to complete the switching process within a five-week period.

These rules will remain unchanged even once the switching process is shortened, so there won’t be fines for suppliers which take longer than 17 days to make a switch, as suppliers are acting voluntarily to speed things up.

And there won’t be any financial penalties for suppliers which don’t introduce faster switching by the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “It’s very unlikely providers won’t be ready. It’s a competitive marketplace so it’s in their interests to get this all up and running as quickly as possible.”

Smart meters

Faster switching is great news for all of us, but Ofgem is hoping to make the process even quicker by introducing 24-hour switching by 2018.

This will be supported by the roll-out of smart meters, the majority of which are expected to be installed by energy suppliers between 2015 and 2020.

A smart meter provides near ‘real-time’ information on how much energy you’re using. The aim is that you can manage your energy usage more effectively, saving you money.

There’s no need for estimated bills with a smart meter, so you only pay for the energy you actually use.

There shouldn’t be any cost to have one installed and your supplier will be in touch when it is looking to install the meters in your area.

Some suppliers, such as British Gas and First Utility already offer tariffs which come with a smart meter. British Gas said it has already installed more than 1.3m smart meters in homes and businesses across the country.

Once you have one fitted, it should make it even smoother and faster to switch suppliers - and the days when it took more than a month to move provider will be nothing more than a distant memory.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

* 51% could save at least £199, MoneySuperMarket Data, September 2014

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