Energy-switching gets quicker at last
The time it takes to switch energy supplier has been reduced to 17 days, with nine of the biggest providers committing to the government initiative to speed things up.
Energy switching has long been a source of frustration for consumers, with switches usually taking at least five weeks to be completed.
One of the reasons it's taken so long is that the time frame includes a two-week cooling off period before the three-week switch process can get underway.
The system has now been improved so that switches can get underway on day one, from which time the cooling-off period also begins.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change has now implemented a revised process making it possible to move from one supplier to another in 17 days, although it still aims to get that down to just 24 hours.
The nine suppliers who have signed up to the scheme to date are British Gas, Ecotricity, EDF, E.On, First Utility, Good Energy, Npower, Spark, SSE and Utility Warehouse.
To change suppliers within 17 days, billpayers must be moving from and to an energy supplier that has already signed up to the faster process – ie, switching from British Gas to SSE.
Scottish Power says it will join the nine companies listed above from the end of January and while the Co-op has also said it plans to sign up it has not yet confirmed its participation.
Extra Energy and Ovo have said plans are in place to offer faster switching "shortly" and Green Star, which says it regularly switches customers in three weeks but has not yet signed up to the new scheme, also plans to improve this further soon.
While the government has welcomed the improvement from providers, secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey said: "The job is not done for energy suppliers. They must offer 24-hour switching for consumers as quickly as possible."
The roll-out of smart meters is part of the government's plan to bring that about. Energy companies have started installing them in homes across Great Britain, with the plan being for most homes to have one by 2020.
They send an electronic meter reading to energy suppliers, getting rid of the need for manual meter readings and estimated bills and a digital display helps billpayers keep track of how much energy they're using and how much it's costing.
There's no upfront cost for the meter to be installed but it will be clawed back through energy bills.
Ditch poor value tariffs
Jeremy Cryer, energy spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said: "Faster energy switching is excellent news for consumers. Any measures which make ditching poor value tariffs and switching to better deals quicker and easier will encourage more people to take control of their energy bills.
"Our own research has found that just 18% of consumers switched their energy provider in 2014 and that 58% of householders have been with the same energy provider for four or more years. By our estimation those customers could be missing out on savings of £215 a year."
Before switching, consumer group Which? advises energy customers to check whether they'll incur a fee for cancelling their current energy deal. Exit fees are common with fixed rate tariffs if you switch early. However, all suppliers should allow customers to leave up to 49 days ahead of their tariff's end date without incurring a penalty.
Other tips for switching energy supplier
- You will need the following information to work out who to switch to: your postcode; the name of your current supplier, the name of your tariff (which should be included on a your bill); how much you spend (or use in kilowatt hours - kWh) on gas and electricity; a meter reading; and your bank details (if you want to pay by direct debit).
- You can work out which supplier and deal to move to by entering this information on price comparison sites.
- Make sure you look at all companies on a comparison site and not just the ones the website says it can switch you to 'today'. This is because comparison sites highlight more prominently those tariffs where they get a referral fee; but there may be cheaper deals also listed on the site – make sure you find them.
- Your new energy supplier will organise the switch. You'll need to submit meter readings when requested and settle outstanding bills with your old company.
The period of time you’re allowed, after signing an agreement, to cancel it without incurring a financial penalty. Financial products including banking, credit, insurance, personal pensions and investments are subject to a 14-day cooling-off period (this is 30 days in the case of life insurance and personal pensions). The insurer or broker must refund any money paid by you within 30 days, although it has the right to deduct a reasonable admin charge, and a sum proportionate to the number of days’ cover you had. If you have any related credit agreements, these will also be cancelled.