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A guide to switching energy suppliers

A guide to switching energy suppliers

As energy prices continue to rise, consider switching your supplier to get a great deal on gas and electricity.

Peter Earl
From the Energy team
minute read
posted 30 MARCH 2020

How do I switch energy suppliers?

Switching energy providers is easy and you’ll never lose your supply in the process – guaranteed. You can switch gas or electricity only, or switch both together on a dual fuel deal.

First, use our energy comparison service to get a quote in minutes. Enter your postcode and answer questions, ideally using accurate information from your energy bill or online account. You’ll then see a wide selection of tariffs and be able to choose the right energy deal for you.

Once you’ve chosen a new tariff and started your switch application, wait to hear instructions from your new energy supplier – you might not hear anything for up to 14 days as you’ll still be in the cooling off period. You’ll need to give your new supplier meter readings on the day of your switch.

You’ll get a final bill from your old energy supplier; make sure to get a refund from them if you’re in credit.

What do I need to know if I want to switch energy suppliers?

Start by using a comparison tool, like the one we offer here at Compare the Market, to see if switching suppliers is worth your while. You'll be able to compare tariffs from a range of energy providers and you’ll also see if you could be getting a better deal from your current supplier. To get the most accurate quote, you’ll need to give as much information about your current energy use as possible.

To get a quick idea, the minimum amount of information you need is how much you currently pay for your gas and electricity, and who your supplier is. If you want a more accurate quote, you'll need to know what tariff you're on – you'll find this in your online account or on your bill. With all these details, most websites should show you the exit fee of your current tariff, which you’ll have to factor into your quote.

Use our comparison tool

If the exit charge outweighs any savings you might make, wait until you receive a notice from your supplier that the contract is coming to an end. This should arrive 42-49 days before the last day of your contract, and if you decide to switch during this time, you can't be charged for leaving. Just remember, it takes an average of 21-28 days to switch your energy from the time you select a deal.

When’s the best time to switch energy providers?

Choosing the right time to switch energy providers can be tricky. You might not consider it until you’ve been paying over the odds for years, or you’re alerted to the fact that you could be paying less. However, you might find the best time to switch is:

  • When you haven’t switched for 12-18 months. Cheaper ‘new customer’ deals often expire after a set period, changing to a standard tariff. This is typically a lot more expensive.
  • Before winter arrives, if you’re not on a fixed-term tariff. Most people use less energy over the summer, so it can be tricky to get a real sense of your energy costs. Comparing prices in the warmer, lighter, months could ensure you get a cheaper tariff before winter sets in and your energy use rises.
  • When you suspect prices are about to rise. You’ll often hear rumours of a predicted energy price rise in the news. And when one energy provider announces a tariff increase, others usually follow suit. When prices are rising, taking out a fixed price tariff can be a good option – guaranteeing your rate for anything between one and five years, depending on the deal. But be careful about switching to a standard variable tariff when prices are on the up. It’s possible a tariff rise hasn’t yet been factored in.
  • Just before your deal ends. It can take 21-28 days to switch energy providers, even if they’re signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee. So, changing before your current deal ends could save you having to pay a few weeks of increased standard tariffs. Your switching window opens 49 days before the end of your contract, and energy regulator Ofgem states that exit fees shouldn’t apply if you switch from a fixed-term contract to another supplier, within that window. Your energy provider should write to you 42 to 49 days before your fixed tariff period ends, so you’ll know when to start looking.
  • When you move home. Moving home is the perfect opportunity to reassess your energy needs. A change in the number of rooms, different heating systems and even appliances could alter your usage. So switching to a different tariff might suit your needs better.
  • When your circumstances change. If you’re on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff and you retire, for example, your power usage during the day is likely to increase. Kids flying the nest can also change when and how you use energy. You might be able to find a different tariff that suits your new homelife better.
  • If you’ve paid off a supplier debt. Some providers won't let you switch while you still owe them a long-term debt. So, once you’ve managed to clear it, it could be worth shopping around for a cheaper deal.

When shouldn't you switch suppliers?

You shouldn't change energy providers if you have to pay a penalty or exit fee to leave your current contract, and the penalty is larger than any potential savings you could make.

Can I switch if I owe money to my current supplier?

You may be able switch suppliers if you owe money to your current supplier (sometimes called ‘energy debt’). If you’ve been in debt to your supplier for less than 28 days you can still switch; your old energy supplier will add what you owe to your final bill. However, if you have debts more than 28 days old, you’ll need to pay this off to your old supplier before you can switch.

If you’re on a pre-payment meter and you owe £500 or less, you can ask for your outstanding balance to be transferred to your new energy supplier under the Debt Assignment Protocol (DAP).

How long does it take to switch energy suppliers?

Switching energy suppliers should take about 21 days, thanks to the Government-backed Energy Switching Guarantee. But it can sometimes happen sooner and sometimes it takes a little longer. Your new energy supplier will provide you with an expected date for your switchover so that this is clear.

If you don’t hear anything for up to 14 days, don’t worry. Most energy suppliers will wait until the cooling off period has passed to start the switching process.

There shouldn’t be any disruption to your supply on the day of the switch, as your gas and electricity will come into your home through the same pipes and wires, whoever supplies it. The only thing you’ll notice are (hopefully) lower bills and a different supplier name.

What if I change my mind about switching?

You’ll get a 14-day cooling off period in case you change your mind. This is a legal requirement and it begins the day after you agree a contract (whether face-to-face, online or over the phone).

Can I switch energy suppliers if I rent?

Yes, usually. As a tenant, you have the right to switch if you pay your supplier directly for the energy you use. Your landlord may have named a ‘preferred supplier’ in the rental agreement, and it’s worth letting them know your decision, but this won’t affect your right to switch.

If you don’t have a smart meter and you pick a tariff that requires one to be installed you’ll need to ask permission from your landlord.

If your landlord pays your energy bills and then charges you, you don’t have the right to switch supplier. You can always ask your landlord to change provider, though.

How do I switch suppliers if I’m moving home?

Moving is the perfect opportunity to find a better deal and switch supplier. You’ll need to give your current supplier notice – ideally at least two days before you move.

If you’re happy with the deal you’ve got, you just need to tell your supplier where you’re moving to and the date of the move.

Whether or not you’re changing supplier, take a meter reading just before you leave your home and submit it to your existing supplier. That way you only pay for the energy you’ve used when your final bill for that property comes through.

Once you’ve moved, take a meter reading and give it to the energy provider who supplies your new home. If you’ve decided to switch and haven’t carried your old tariff over, then you’ll automatically be put on the new supplier’s ‘default’ standard variable-rate tariff. These tend to be the most expensive tariffs, so it’s a good idea to compare prices and find something cheaper as soon as possible.

How much could I save if I switch suppliers?

50% of people could achieve a saving of £345** on their dual fuel energy costs based on Compare the Market data in February 2020. But the best way of finding out how much you could save is to compare energy prices. We’ll show you savings based on your current energy use – you might be surprised at the results.

We can also tell you the highest-saving energy tariffs that we’re seeing each month. For more information, take a look at our Energy Snapshot.

**Where a saving can be achieved 50% of people could achieve a saving of £345.00 on their dual fuel energy costs based on Compare the Market data in February 2020.

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What types of gas and electricity tariffs can I choose when switching suppliers?

Suppliers offer a variety of tariffs, so there’s bound to be one that suits your household. When it comes to thinking about tariff type, consider what’s important to you – for example, do you have a set budget, is flexibility more important than price, or is ease the biggest issue for you? Also don’t assume that getting your energy from one of the ‘big six’ providers means better prices and service – it’s worth shopping around.

Whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help you with our Energy tariffs explained guide.

Read our guide on energy tariffs explained

Will I get a smart meter if I switch suppliers?

Maybe. It depends on where your chosen supplier is with their smart meter roll-out. In a government-led initiative, energy suppliers are required to install smart meters in all customers’ homes by 2020. By the end of 2017, over 11 million had been installed, with many more on the way.

Smart meters use a mobile signal to send data to your supplier, so you don’t have to submit a reading. The meter also sends energy usage information to an in-home display. The idea is that this real-time information about how much gas and electricity you use will help save energy and money.

Find out more about the smart meter roll-out and what it means for you in our guide to smart meters.

Read our guide to smart meters

Can I switch suppliers if I have solar panels?

Yes. Having solar panels shouldn’t stop anyone from switching energy supplier.

If you generate your own energy through solar panels, you’ll get money back under what’s known as the feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme. The amount of money you get for your energy is set by Ofgem and you’ll get payments for generating the energy you use, as well as for the excess energy you sell back to the National Grid. The payments themselves are made by a FIT licensee. By law, all of the Big Six energy suppliers (British Gas, E.ON, EDF, npower, Scottish Power and SSE) are licensees, and most other energy suppliers are too.

The supplier who makes your FIT payments doesn’t have to be the same one that you buy energy from and you are free to switch. If you want to, you can also switch your FIT licensee, provided you have a new one ready to take you on.

Can I switch to a renewable energy supplier for my electricity?

Yes. It’s entirely your choice which supplier you switch to.

Renewable energy is booming in the UK, and it accounted for 50% of energy generation capacity around the world in 2016.

Some energy firms source 100% of their energy from renewables, such as wind or sunlight. Others offer a mix of green energy and energy from traditional fossil fuel sources. The terms and conditions should give you a breakdown of what comes from where.

Renewable energy could cost more, so isn’t always realistic if you’re on a really tight budget. As an alternative, consider paperless billing instead or look for suppliers that invest money in environmental projects.

Compare energy prices today

If you want to find out if you can save money by switching energy suppliers, why not start right here and now. Use our energy comparison service to find the right deal for you and make the switch today.

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