Thinking of switching energy supplier?

Posted in: Energy and Heating

Millions of UK consumers have switched their energy supplier during the last six months. Spiralling price increases are driving consumers out into the market place, desperately seeking cheaper energy as the winter months draw in…and we again, must draw our belts ever tighter.

If you’ve never switched energy supplier, then you could be missing out on annual savings of around £250. The process of switching your energy supplier is far easier and less stressful than you might fear.

A recent DTI investigation revealed that almost 90% of customers who switched their energy supply company found it quick and easy. Recently introduced rules mean that consumers now have up to seven days from the date you receive the written confirmation to cancel a contract. A cooling off period.

Before making your decision, it’s important to read all the advice on the subject, this can be provided by your local Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre, and your current energy supplier.

Compare energy market prices

What would we do without the internet! Comparing your existing supplier against other suppliers in the market is now so quick and easy. To help do this, you must calculate how much you are currently paying for your energy: this is easy done by checking your last four quarterly energy bills. Armed with this information, you need only click on one of the free online price comparison sites to compare your existing energy tariff against what the others are charging.

Choose a new energy supplier

Once you’ve made your price comparison, you can then do a little more research to ensure you pick the best supplier that suits your needs. Currently, there are more than fifteen main energy suppliers from which to choose. You can arrange for separate energy companies to supply your gas and electricity, or one to supply both – commonly known as dual fuel.

Different tariffs (or prices) will be offered to different consumers according to their own particular circumstances. The amount of fuel you regularly use will have an effect upon the price you pay: the more you use, the cheaper you will usually pay. Whatever price you are quoted, check that this price includes VAT.

Discounts and incentives

Occasionally, energy suppliers will dangle a carrot – will offer special discounts – or incentives to consumers – who want them to supply both their gas and electricity (dual fuel). Many suppliers will offer special payment schemes for the unemployed, low earners, and pensioners. But beware; some suppliers will add a standing charge to your energy bill for the service. Companies that do not add a standing charge may charge higher unit prices for the gas or electricity consumed.

Ask suppliers about their payment schemes. There may be several, so choose the payment option that suits your needs. Some payment schemes are cheaper than others: such as paying by direct bank debit. Payment options available may allow: weekly, monthly, or quarterly payments. Payment methods may also be flexible: paying by cash, postal order, cheque, direct debit, or a coin prepayment meter. And do check there are no penalties for late payment, or cancellation of the contract. Check the small print!

Making the switch

Once you have decided to switch, have selected a supplier that suits your needs, actually switching is a relatively simple and stress free process.

The first thing to do is contact your chosen supplier, and inform them of your decision to change energy supplier. They will send you a contract: when you receive it, read it carefully, make sure you agree with everything, and sign and return it.

The process of switching can take about six weeks to complete: but your new supplier will keep you informed about progress.

Next, inform your current supplier that you are switching to a new energy company and give them the usual – required – 28 days notice. If you do this by phone, make sure you follow it up in writing.

When you’ve done this, it only remains to pay your final bill with your old supplier, and cancel any direct debits with your bank.

It is worth remembering that getting your fuel prices down is only ‘half’ way to optimising your energy overall costs, and reduce waste…ensuring you have your home adequately insulated - and vented, plays a big part in the process: as does having efficient equipment – making best use of the equipment and appliances you currently have. Unfortunately, many householders don’t look closely enough into the subject. You may be operating at way below what you might expect: good suppliers will gladly advise on all aspects of home central heating – boiler efficiency: Good online suppliers will not only provide good advice, you’ll also save money.

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26 June 2013