Switching energy services – How to save yourself £200
(26/02/15) With the government’s newly launched ‘Power to Switch’ campaign encouraging people to change their energy supplier to save money, James Walker looks into the ins and outs of switching and saving
According to the latest government figures, 13.5 million households across the UK (that’s more than half of all homes) could collectively be saving £2.7bn per year simply by switching energy company.
Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “When it comes to switching, the power is in people’s hands to get a better deal and save.
“We’ve reformed the market so that there are more suppliers, more competition, and a much faster and simpler process to switch. That means millions of people can switch supplier and save hundreds of pounds today”
What’s the government done, then?
The main reform the Department for Energy and Climate Change has made is halving the time it takes to switch suppliers – this is now down to just 17 days, from 35 days in 2014.
There have been other changes, too, including encouraging new small energy suppliers (more than 20 of them). These are independent companies intent on challenging the confusing and expensive tariffs of the mainstream ‘Big Six’ energy companies.
The government is also backing Ofgem (that’s the energy industry regulator) reforms that force energy companies to make energy bills clearer.
If you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received, make sure you let your energy supplier know rather than simply switching. You never know – your energy firm might agree to cut you a better deal!
Ofgem’s part and the Confidence Code
Ofgem has beefed-up its Confidence Code for price comparison websites, setting tighter standards on how tariffs are displayed, with websites given until the end of March to comply.
This is what the Money Advice Service (a free & impartial service set up by government) has to say about switching and the Confidence Code:
“How can you find the cheapest energy tariff? Simply run a quick and free energy comparison on one of the websites which have agreed to be impartial and independent as part of Ofgem’s Confidence Code. Feel free to run a comparison on several websites as they may give you different results. Some even offer bonuses such as cashback when you switch.
“Once you’ve picked a comparison website, you’ll need to arm yourself with a copy of a recent energy bill. The bill will contain the information you need to switch, including the name of your current supplier and energy tariff, as well as your usage in kWh.
“Input all of this information into the comparison website and unless you’re already on the cheapest plan, you should end up with a list of cheaper tariffs. Check your bill to see if you’ll be charged exit fees before making a decision.”
Don’t be fooled by price cuts
Recent price cuts by the Big Six energy suppliers (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, SSE and Scottish Power and npower) might save you money, but mostly they’ve been quite small. So don’t be lulled into thinking you’ve got a good deal; it’s almost certainly still worth shopping around.
Of course, if you don’t fancy the hassle of changing supplier, your energy company is obliged to let you know if there’s a cheaper tariff available
Big vs Small
Newer small energy companies such as First Utility or OVO Energy are challenging the stranglehold of the Big Six on the market by offering temptingly cheap tariff. Be brave and go for one of these if it makes financial sense; guaranteed service standards mean you’ll never be left without power or heat.