What the energy switching process is really like

Laura Whitcombe's picture

The problem with energy switching is it’s painfully dull and takes far too long. But it starts off easily enough. You simply punch in your postcode into a comparison site, along with how much energy you use or how much you pay for it and some details about your current tariff. Then up springs a list of all the deals that could save you money.

At that point you can let the comparison site do the rest of the work for you, or you can contact your preferred supplier directly.

I’m currently five weeks into my energy switch. On 11 February I discovered I could save around £250 a year by switching from British Gas’s standard variable rate dual fuel tariff (£84 a month) to a fixed deal from Ovo Energy.
In fact, the cheapest six tariffs available for my postcode were all from smaller companies – including the likes of First Utility and GreenStar Energy. None of the Big Six deals were anywhere near as competitive.
I plumped for Ovo’s Better Energy Fixed (all online) tariff. Based on my previous usage information, my monthly direct debit is going to be £68 to start off with, before hopefully falling over the summer. 
Knowing that the comparison sites can earn up to £60 for each customer switching, I decided to switch directly through Ovo. It didn’t take too long to complete an online form, set up my account and receive a welcome email. But then everything went quiet. First, I had to wait 14 days for my cooling-off period to expire – your new supplier can’t lift a finger until then.
It would be another three and a half weeks before I heard another peep from Ovo, which eventually came in the form of two emails on the same day – one asking for direct debit details and the other for meter readings. I replied straight away with the information and then it was back to the waiting game.
It’s now been five weeks since I signed up. Ovo has just charged me for my first bill but British Gas is still charging me too. There’s an overlap in billing periods, I’m in credit on my old account, and there’s been a delay in moving my electricity to Ovo. So I’m still technically a British Gas customer and now also an Ovo customer.
I’ve been told my final bill from British Gas will arrive in the next 14 days so by that time my switch will have taken at least seven weeks. And if I want to make sure I’m still on a competitive deal next year, I’ll have to go through it all again.
If I don’t I’ll find myself doing just what the energy companies want me to – floating on a costly standard variable tariff and paying through the nose. I’ll begrudgingly switch again but by then I really do hope the government will finally have made good on its pledge to make the process a damn site quicker. Have you had any switching nightmares? Let me know.