Advice on switching energy suppliers: an insider’s scoop
Posted by Caitlin Latimer on 15 March 2019 at 10:29 am
As someone who used to work for a small start-up energy supplier, I learnt a lot of switching tips on the job. This blog is based on my knowledge and experience of the industry.
Whether you want to switch energy supplier to save money, be on a renewable tariff or to experience better customer service, this blog should offer some useful information about switching.
Firstly, make sure you don’t have any exit fees with your current tariff. These may exist if you have a fixed energy tariff so check your energy bills or give your supplier a call to determine when your tariff finishes and what the fee is. If you are on a variable tariff you will not get any exit fees and will be free to leave when you want. You can still switch before your fixed tariff ends, but sometimes the savings won’t be enough to compensate for the exit fees which are usually £30 per fuel (so £60 for gas and electric accounts).
But, did you know that you can leave your current supplier 49 days before your contract ends and you cannot be charged any exit fees? In the last 42-49 days before your contract ends your energy supplier should notify you that your contract is due to end. Switching takes 17 days so make sure it coincides with the 49 day before the tariff ending, if not contact your new supplier and they can delay your start date for you so that it will fit into the 42-49 day period. That way you can secure the tariff you want without paying for unnecessary exit fees.
Finding a cheaper tariff
The best way to determine which tariff is cheapest is to look at the unit rates of each tariff and your annual energy usage - this will help avoid being misled by a ‘cheap’ deal. Switching sites are a good way of comparing the different suppliers’ rates but it is important to compare it against your own usage. If you don’t know your usage figures you’ll have to use Ofgem estimates which are based on the size of the property. However, even though your own property might be the same size your usage can be greatly affected by the appliances you use in the home, the amount of people living in the property and the energy efficiency of the building.
Therefore make sure you know your estimated annual consumption of gas and electric. If you submit valid meter readings regularly, your annual usage figure should be pretty up-to-date and reflective of your current usage.
When switching consider if you receive certain benefits from your current supplier (e.g. warm home discount, dual fuel discount) as not all suppliers, particularly the smaller ones can’t always offer these benefits.
Debit / credit on your account
Finally, before switching I would recommend checking your current account balance and if you haven’t submitted a meter reading recently then do so. This could avoid a nasty surprise when you get sent a final bill and realise you’re in a lot more debt than you expected. This is particularly common over the winter months when your account starts building up some debt (a small amount can be expected), so you’ll end up with a higher final bill than you would do over the summer months. Also, if you are in a lot of debt with your current supplier they can actually stop a switch from occurring – it’s called an objection, where our current supplier can object to the switch taking place. If this happens you’ll need to get in contact with them to set up a payment plan or pay off some or all of the debt so that your supplier will agree to raise the objection, then the new supplier can re-apply for your switch.
Objections can also apply if you’ve recently moved into a new property and haven’t contacted the current supplier, you will need to do this so they will know who to the charge the final bill to.
Switching will take 17 days from the day you sign up to when your new supplier takes over your energy supply. You can submit a meter readings 5 days before or up to 5 days after your supply start date. So don’t worry if you forget to submit a reading on the switch day as you have a 10 day window where you can submit your opening meter reading.
There will be no disruption to your supply, you’ll still be consuming the same energy as before but you’ll just pay a different supplier for it.
Your first payment
Double check when your new supplier will be taking your first payment as often it can be on the first day of supply. Often people think they have been doubled billed due to their old and new suppliers charging them within a similar period of time but this isn’t necessarily the case - your new supplier can take an ‘initial payment’ on your start date to ensure that your new account starts with some credit. Sometimes your previous supplier you can keep charging you until a final bill has been sent or if there is still debt on the account.
More about the switching process in our next blog . . .
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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