Energy switching myths debunked
Author: Richard Vale Date: 07/03/2017
Switching energy provider regularly is a sure-fire way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your household gas and electricity. However, a lot of us don’t switch as regularly as we should, and some have never switched! This is because people wrongly assume that switching energy provider is a lot harder than it actually is.
Less than an hour’s work either online or on the phone can really save you a lot of money in the long run. Here's our list of debunks, which will hopefully convince you that being an active, engaged customer in the energy market is almost guaranteed to save you money.
For more information on the switching process, please see our guide on ensuring a smooth switch.
MYTH: I’ve been with my supplier ages; surely my loyalty means they put me on the best deal?
Whilst loyalty is rewarded in other markets, the opposite is almost true with energy! The best deals are normally exclusively for new customers, which means that if you want the best deal you need to actively engage in the market at least every two years. However, if you switch once and never want to switch again, once your fixed tariff rate comes to an end, your energy supplier is required to put you on to its cheapest standard tariff - but remember; that isn’t likely to be the best tariff that new customers would get.
MYTH: Prices and suppliers are all the same; I’d only save a few pounds if I switch and it’s not worth the hassle
This is arguably the worst myth on the list as switching energy provider can really lead to some dramatic savings. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy states that if you haven’t switched in the last five years, then you're likely to save an average of £300 through switching! Even if you don’t want to switch supplier, switching from the standard tariff you’re currently on to one of your supplier's fixed rate tariffs can still save over £100. Also, if you’re not already paying by direct debit, switching to that payment method can save you money (as can paperless bills) but direct debit isn't mandatory so you can keep paying as you currently do.
MYTH: My gas or electricity will be cut off, or the road will have to be dug up to lay new pipes
A surprisingly common myth, despite being wildly inaccurate. At no point will your energy be turned off when you switch supplier. You will still get the same supply of gas and/or electricity that you receive at the moment. The only things that will change are the name of the supplier on the bill and the amount of money you have to spend on other important things.
MYTH: I’ll end up being charged twice while the energy companies organise the hand-over
Being charged twice is a common concern among energy shoppers, although it very rarely happens. When you decide to switch, if you're in debt to your supplier, you'll need to pay the remaining money you owe, and it’s advisable to do it promptly. Alternatively, if you are in credit with your supplier, they will reimburse you for the total amount.
To ensure you’re only charged for what you use, you must be aware of your ‘go live’ date, which is agreed by your previous and new energy suppliers. Almost all suppliers only start billing you from this date, although some smaller independent suppliers might charge you in advance, and some tariffs are advanced pay. However, if this applies to you, costs will be calculated to make sure you don’t overpay. Furthermore, if you pay by direct debit, make sure you cancel this with you bank after your final payment has been made to your old supplier.
MYTH: You can only switch by going online and I don’t have access to the internet
While it might be slightly easier to go to an online comparison website and work through the process from there, a lot of switching organisations have Freephone numbers which you can call to get professional help - from comparison to switching. See the list at the bottom of this article for Ofgem-approved comparison organisations.
MYTH: I know I should do it, but it’s just too complicated and takes too long
This is probably the most common concern amongst those who have never switched and, given energy suppliers’ quite complex billing systems, it’s not an overly surprising misunderstanding. However, all you need in order to do an energy comparison is a recent energy bill and your postcode. The comparison website or helpline can then help you find the best deal for you in your local area and provide you with a free and easy-to-use switching service. Comparison sites also give detailed information on each tariff, including gas and electricity unit prices, and any discounts that are available.
Once you’ve arranged the switch, your new supplier has to give you a fourteen day cooling-off period, during which you can cancel the contract if you decide to stick with your supplier or change to another one, without incurring any charge. Once the two weeks are up, your supplier has to change you within three working days, after any raised objections have been resolved and all the relevant information has been received. So, while in 2014 it took five weeks to switch, it now only takes an average of 17 days.
MYTH: I’m on a prepayment meter and/or in debt to my supplier, which means I can’t switch
If you’re struggling to pay your bills and are regularly in debt to your energy supplier, that’s even more reason to switch to a cheaper deal. The same goes for prepayment meters, which are often the most expensive method for paying for energy.
If you’ve owed money for 28 days or less, and the debt is less than £500 per fuel, you can still switch supplier and the money you owe will be added to your final bill from your old supplier. If you’re on a prepayment meter you’ll need to ask the new supplier to agree to transfer your debt along with your supply (this is called the ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’). If your current supplier tries to block your switching due to debt less than this amount, you can make a formal complaint to your energy supplier, Citizens Advice and even the Energy Ombudsman, if necessary.
If you’re in too much energy debt to switch, you should contact your energy supplier as soon as you can because, believe it or not, they can really help with debt-related matters. Your supplier must also give you information on how to avoid getting into debt, about how you can pay back your debt and a list of the money you currently owe. Furthermore, they can set up a repayment plan so you can pay back your energy debt gradually. Although they are not required by law to offer you a way of repaying your debts that takes your financial situation into account, they are likely to. Repayment plans space your energy payments out over time so you don't have to pay large lump-sums all at once. They can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and will include a portion of your current use and a portion of your debt.
Ofgem-accredited ‘price comparison’ energy switching websites
The companies below are accredited through the Ofgem Confidence Code and therefore act independently of suppliers. So, you can be sure that when you are presented with options and prices, they have been calculated and are displayed in a fair and unbiased way.
|energyhelpline||0800 074 0745|
|energylinx||0800 849 7077|
|moneysupermarket||0800 177 7087|
|MyUtilityGenius||0203 468 0461|
|Simply Switch||0800 011 1395|
|Switch Gas & Electric||03333 700 600|
|TheEnergyShop||0845 330 7247|
|UKPower||0800 860 6866|
|Unravelit||033 3344 0031|
|uSwitch||0800 6888 557|