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Advice on switching energy suppliers (part 2)

Posted by Caitlin Latimer on 22 March 2019 at 2:11 pm

Following on from the previous blog, this week will explain some of the more common problems of switching suppliers.

Handover reading

One of the more common problems with switching energy suppliers is when the incorrect handover (or opening) reading is used.

When you switch suppliers you need a handover reading so your previous supplier knows when to stop billing you, and your new supplier knows when to start billing you. Your new supplier will ask you to submit your opening reading and it is their responsibility to pass on this meter reading to your old supplier. So even if you give your old supplier the correct meter reading, they should technically be using the one provided by your new supplier – this should avoid two different readings being used and customers being double billed.

But if I supplied my own meter reading, shouldn’t it be used as the handover reading?

Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen and is a really frustrating issue with the industry. Energy suppliers have a third party company (data collectors) who work for them and validate meter readings - validating meter readings is a legal requirement within the energy industry. This makes sure the opening meter reading submitted looks in line with previous readings to ensure the final bill is roughly accurate. But often, the opening reading a customer submits is changed to a different figure.

How can I change my meter reading?

When you get a final bill and you see a crazy high charge don’t panic (just yet). Opening meter readings can be changed so speak to your new/ old supplier and see if they can do so. The general rule of thumb within the industry is that if your incorrect opening reading is at least 250kWh units (for electricity) greater/lower than your actual handover reading, or 150m^3 or 45 ft^3 for gas - then you should be able to change the reading. You may not be able to change it straight away as your supplier will need some ‘back-up’ readings to present to the other supplier to prove that your reading is an accurate opening reading. Previous readings can be used so you can always speak to your previous supplier to get these readings, if not you’ll need preferably at least 2 new readings at least a week apart.

If the reading is not greater/smaller than the 250kWh or the 150m^3 or 45 ft^3 threshold, then the energy supplier is not obligated to change the readings. But depending on the situation it may not amount to that much money, depending on the difference between your previous and new supplier’s unit rates.

For example:

The old tariff rate is 17p and the new one is 15p that’s only a difference of 2p per unit. Let’s say the difference between your opening readings is 200 kWh, that’s only a difference of £4*.

(*200kwh x 2p = 400p divided by 100= £4.00)

If you old supplier is more expensive than the new supplier, it actually works in your favour if the opening reading is lower as you’ll end up paying more to your new supplier on their cheaper rates.

What determines whether you’ll end up paying more or less is the unit price difference, unit difference and whether the opening reading is higher or lower than the actual reading.

Should I cancel my direct debit with my old supplier?

You shouldn’t need to manually cancel a direct debit as after the switch has been completed your previous supplier should stop taking payments. However if you are in debt they can continue to take payments until a final bill has been issued or you clear the debt – speak to your supplier about different payments options.

When will I get my final bill?

Final bills can take from 2-6 weeks to process as there is a validation process for the opening readings which can cause delays. It can take up to 6 weeks for an electricity reading to be validated but generally less time for gas. The opening meter reading needs to be validated and sent across to the old supplier before you will receive a final bill – so although your new supplier has the reading it doesn’t necessarily mean your old supplier will also have it.

If you receive a final bill and find that an incorrect handover reading has been used and you would like to change it, your new/old supplier can apply for the change. Depending on how long the process takes you won’t need to pay that final bill until the reading has been accepted by both suppliers and then a new final bill can be re-issued and then a final payment / refund can be made.

Related blogs

Advice on switching energy suppliers: part one

Switching energy suppliers - busting the myths which cost us dearly

Is switching still worth it?

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

3 comments - read them below or add one

Malcolm M

Malcolm MComment left on: 5 April 2019 at 10:43 pm

I normally switch once a year but last year I had to switch twice as my then supplier went bust, and another supplier took over my supply in the interim. Unfortunately during my time with the "bust" supplier I also had smart (now non-smart) meters installed and they failed to register my new gas meter with the appropriate authorities. Thus when my new ("100% green") and interim suppliers received my opening readings they could not reconcile the new metric gas reading with the old imperial meter reading and "estimated" a new reading based on the imperial meter. As an result I apparently used 70,000 kwh of gas in a week.

4 months and numerous promises later, the matter is still unresolved but both parties assure me they are dilligently working on resolving the problem. I provided regular photos of the new meters and the respective registers but this didn't appear sufficient to accelerate organisational inertia.

This is the first time a prolonged problem has occurred but it will not put me off switching again when the appropriate time comes again as the financial benefits are clear.

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richmc

richmcComment left on: 5 April 2019 at 4:02 pm

Top tip, when you submit any readings during the switch, get a copy of the days paper write your address on it and take a photo of it next to your meter, send this with the reading if you can or save it in case you need to prove useage, I do this all the time as I have solar and battery storage and am very rarely belived when I submit readings. I often get meter readers sent round to check, I've been told it's not uncommon.

Also as I switch quite often I've found if you are in debt with your old supplier you will get a final bill (and demand) in three weeks. If you are in credit it takes ten, I wonder why?

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Toff

ToffComment left on: 5 April 2019 at 12:33 pm

I don't wish to be a complete pedant but.........

Under the terms of their Supply Licences, suppliers have 35 days to takeover a supply: this includes the 14 day cooling off period that all customers have when signing up for a new contract.  As far as I know, not all suppliers are signed up to 17 day switching: My last switch took 25 days.

Suppliers also have to use reasonable efforts to issue a Final Bill within 6 weeks of the date that they lose the supply. Ofgem is consulting on a compensation scheme for suppliers that breach this regulation.

The contributor has amade no mention of switching blocking and has confused debt with an outstanding debit balance. Ofgem defines debt in a very precise way. An outstanding debit balance is not a debt unless the supplier has notified the customer in writing that there is a debt and the debt remains unpaid for 30 days.

Readings Disputes. There is an Agreed Readings Dispute process for opening/closing readings. Disputes can only be raised if the difference is more than 1200kWh for gas, or 250kWh for electricity. Differences within the above values are deemed accurate and have to be accepted by both suppliers under Ofgem rules.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Supply Licences offer price protection. If the losing supplier is notified via industry procedures that a transfer is in progress no later than end of contract date plus 20 days, then the old supplier has to keep the customer on the existing tariff (ie; no reversion to SVT) until the actual transfer goes through. A couple of suppliers have been 'fined' for conveniently forgetting this important consumer protection.

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