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How to switch energy suppliers

By S21, 21 Jan 2016

Changing your electricity and gas supplier is a lot easier than you may think. Big savings can be made for very little effort if you're willing to make the switch.

More competition is better for consumers

There's been a big shake-up in the electricity and gas supply market in the past few years. Dozens of new companies have joined the "Big 6" energy suppliers, and are offering cheaper prices, simpler tariffs, greener energy and more innovative customer services.

But if you stay with your current provider, you won't be able to reap the benefits of the increased competition. Fortunately, the industry regulator, Ofgem, has made it very easy to change suppliers. All you need is your latest energy bill, about 15 minutes of your time, and the willingness to try something new.

How much could I save?

Potentially hundreds of pounds. We did a quick check for a medium-sized family home located in Oxford. The chart below shows the variation in annual energy prices, valid on 21 January 2016. This are indicative only - please check with the companies for a valid quote. Deals vary all the time, depending on your location and your actual energy use.

How it works

Changing electricity or gas supplier doesn't require an engineer to visit your home. You don't even need to tell your old company that you're switching. All you have to do is sign up online with the new supplier and they will do the rest. You will need to enter your postcode to get a quote, as prices vary by region. You will also need to enter your energy usage from your current bill to find the best deal for you.

The process can take up to 8 weeks to complete, and your new provider will give you a start date, arrange for meter readings to be taken on switchover, and inform your current supplier that you are moving.

You might be worried about leaving one of the established energy companies and moving to an unfamiliar supplier, but the industry is heavily regulated by Ofgem, so each company must conform to common rules. The gas and electricity supply networks are shared by the industry as a whole, so there will be no physical change to the cables or pipes bringing electricity and gas to your property. Your new supplier is responsible for making any arrangements that are necessary.

Do check that you are not on a fixed-term contract with your current energy supplier before switching. If you are locked into an existing contract, you may be charged a fee by your existing supplier for leaving early. You may have to pay off any debt to your current supplier before you’re allowed to switch. However, if you use a prepayment meter you should be able to switch with a debt of up to £500.

Finding the best deal

Most people will be looking for the cheapest deal, although there are also options to fix your rates, or to pay extra for electricity from renewable sources. You might also want to consider extras such as companies that bundle broadband, phone and TV services.

To find the cheapest price, you could try one of the price comparison websites, but you should be aware that not all of the new energy companies advertise on price comparison sites. Some aim to keep their costs and prices as low as possible by working directly with their customers.

We've listed the main gas and electricity suppliers on our site, and you can check these for customer reviews, and click on the links to the company websites at the foot of each page.

Customer reviews

We're not a price comparison website. Instead we provide a place where you can read customer reviews of the energy companies. Price isn't everything, after all. If you do decide to make the switch, why not write a review of your own to help others learn from your experience?

Finally, if you need advice about your energy bills, visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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