When and How to Change Energy Supplier

12th March 2018

By James Story

Changing energy supplier can be better for the planet, improve your finances and even give you a better level of service. Yet, most of us don’t even consider shopping around for energy providers from year to year. Whilst comparing car insurance is something that many of us do regularly, it’s not uncommon for energy customers to stick with the same company for a lifetime.

In recent years, however, people have been wising up to alternatives in the energy market, with a record number of households switching in 2016 after using online comparison for their gas and electricity. Here, we review the state of the energy market right now and look at the benefits of changing suppliers.

 

The State of the Market Today

There are over 50 energy suppliers in the UK, more than there has ever been. Yet the current market is still dominated by the ‘Big Six’ energy companies. These major suppliers are British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power, and SSE. They make up the UK’s largest and oldest private energy firms, formed after the 1989 Electricity Act which set the path for energy privatisation.

Despite new and smaller competitors popping up all the time and many customer surveys revealing poor service from the Big Six, they still take up 90% of the market, supplying gas and electricity to over 22 million homes across Britain.

 

Reasons to Change Energy Suppliers

Don’t let apathy and lack of market knowledge leave you with extortionate bills and poor service. There are many reasons to change your energy supplier this year. After reading these, you will see that switching is a no-brainer.

Save money on your bills – energy bills have increased dramatically in recent years, with Ofgem research revealing that many of us are paying well over the odds. Current estimates show that customers could make a saving of somewhere between £200 and £400 per year simply by switching companies.

Get better service – bigger doesn’t always mean better and many customer surveys show us that smaller firms perform the best when it comes to quality of service. Alternative suppliers such as OVO, Flow Energy, Utility Warehouse, Ecotricity, Green Star Energy and Good Energy all offer better service and better value for money compared to the Big Six, according to recent data compiled by Which?.

Save the environment – there are over 50 energy suppliers in Britain, many of which are now offering 100% renewable energy plans. Green tariffs help to reduce our carbon footprint and slow the effects of global warming.

Create diversity in the market – by changing supplier, you can help to create diversity in the energy market. Moving away from the Big Six can redistribute power and prevent rising energy bills.

Choose an ethical company – having a diverse market allows customers to shop around and connect with firms that share the same values, such as ethical practices, fair working conditions and environmental care.

         

So How Do I Make the Switch?

One factor that can deter customers from switching is the question of how to change energy supplier, but the answer is very simple because switching suppliers is incredibly easy and totally hassle-free.

The best way to go about changing suppliers is to use an energy comparison site, where you fill in a few details and compare energy plans side by side. You can also research tariffs online before calling your chosen company on the phone if you prefer to speak to an advisor.

For your search, you will need the following:

Your postcode – whether you are switching over the phone or online, you will need your address details at hand.

Name of your current supplier – refer to a recent utility bill for the details. 

Your usage information – use a recent bill or annual statement to review/compare different plans and costings.

Once you have selected your tariff, simply confirm your switch by providing a full address and bank details (for direct debit payments). After completing the final step, you will be contacted by your new energy company. It really is that easy!

 

How Long Does It Take to Change Energy Suppliers?

Another reason that people don’t change their energy supplier often is the common misconception that it will take a long time, or that there will be disruption to the energy supply. Switching takes no time at all and can be completed online or over the phone at your convenience.

There is usually a cooling down period (around 14 days) that takes place after your new supplier has contacted you to confirm your new contract. During this time, your supply of the energy will be exactly the same, but the new payment plan won’t begin until the cooling down period ends.  

 

Should I Consider Renewable Energy?

Today, there is more diversity in the energy market than ever before, with many of these new suppliers promising renewable electricity and green tariffs that are kind to the environment.

Green tariffs and renewable plans have attracted a lot of attention in the media, including some criticism that not all tariffs are 100% renewable. If you intend on going fully carbon neutral, it’s important to do a little extra research to find out more about a supplier’s fuel mix. However, there is no doubt that the green energy available is both better for the environment and potentially for your personal finances.

Many of today’s green competitors can offer plans that are cheaper than that of the Big Six. Just some of the energy companies advertising 100% renewable electricity include:

Ecotricity

Bulb

OVO

Good Energy

Green Energy UK

Octopus Energy

Pure Planet

The most important thing to remember is that choosing a green tariff is not a substitute for good energy efficiency in the home. The best way to help the environment is to work with the variables you can control, such as using low energy light bulbs, turning appliances off when they are not in use, and cutting down your daily consumption.

 

Can I Switch Suppliers with Bad Credit?

One of the biggest questions that is asked is “Can I change energy supplier if I’m in debt?” The answer is yes, although there are a few restrictions. When applying for gas and electricity, credit checks are performed and this can sometimes lead to bills being more expensive for poor credit customers. Always check your credit rating before you apply so you know whether you’ll be able to make a saving.

For customers with bad credit, prepayment meters are available, but these can often work out to be more costly than direct debit payments. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth shopping around, though, as finding a cheaper energy supplier can still bring your monthly outgoings down.

If you have fuel debt with your current supplier, you may feel as though you can’t switch. However, it may be possible to transfer your arrears over to a new supplier. If they can provide you with a more affordable payment plan, this could be the solution to help you clear your outstanding bills. Generally, fuel debt under £500 can still be accepted by some companies.

 

How to Find the Best Energy Tariffs

The key to finding the best tariff for your household, your budget and lifestyle is to regularly shop around. As a contracted customer, you are entitled to switch your supplier every 28 days, so there’s nothing stopping you from changing your mind about your plan, but be aware of any cancellation fees that you may incur. Always read the fine print to check if there are hidden charges to watch out for.

The best advice is to shop around once or twice a year, whilst always keeping an eye on the ever-changing market. Using a gas and electricity comparison tool online is a quick and easy way of comparing tariffs and seeing how much you could save with different energy companies.

With today’s rising energy prices, it’s important to keep an eye on competitors whenever you can. The saving an average customer can make is often substantial – enough to significantly improve their financial situation.

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