Faster Switching Between Energy Suppliers: Questions and Answers

Government Announcements
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We welcome the announcement by DECC  today that households will be able to switch energy supplier in just 17 days. Read the press release here. As part of the briefing DECC have supplied more information, which is below in question and answer format.

Q:        Why was it important to cut switching times?

A:        We know that energy bills are a big source of worry for many households, which is why we’ve taken action to make the market work for consumers. This means increasing competition in the market and putting customers in control of their energy bills. An important part of this is to make switching energy suppliers as easy and quick as possible.

Q:        How has industry managed to halve them?

A:        Up until now, it could take around five weeks for suppliers to complete a switch. This incorporated the 2 week cooling off period upfront and then followed by a 3 week period where the actual switch takes place. Now the switching process begins from day one at the same starting time as the cooling period. Other improvements in the process mean that a switch can now be completed in 2 weeks and 3 days. What’s more we’ve ensured that consumer’s statutory rights won’t be affected by the new changes, so they can still cancel at any time during the 14 day period.

Q:        What does this mean for the consumer?

A:        Households can now make the most of a range of competitive deals in the market and, if they choose to switch, can now get the benefits of a better deal sooner. We’re handing power back to consumers – and this is just the start. Government aims to have 24 hour switching in place as soon as possible, supported by the roll-out of smart meters.

Q:        What if I’m on a prepayment meter?

A:        Prepayment meter customers also benefit from new half-time switching of 17 days. Switching a prepayment customer in general is complicated by the need to also issue them with a new charge key which they then need to start using in the meter from a certain point. This is something the ‘winning’ supplier will arrange with the customer. However smart meters will remove this extra complication because they won’t need charge keys and switching will take place remotely over the communications hub.

Q:        Are there exemptions?

A:        While many energy companies now offer half-time switching, some of the smaller independent suppliers have not yet updated their systems but we expect them to be doing so soon. A list of suppliers who have confirmed they are now switching customers faster is below but others are moving to offer it so check a suppliers’ website or ask them directly if you don’t see their name below.

Q:        Can I really expect to around £300 – or even more – just by switching energy supplier?

A:        For many consumers savings of around £300 is possible. This is particularly so for consumers who have never switched. There are however some consumers who may be able to save more.

The precise amount you save depends on the tariff you are currently on, the tariff you are looking to move to and the amount of energy you use. Price comparison sites, like MyUtilityGenius, are a quick and easy way to find this out for range tariffs or suppliers can also estimate this for you.

Q:        What is a collective switch?

A:        Collective switching is when a large group of people get together and use their collective buying power to negotiate a better deal from energy suppliers. Many local councils and consumer websites have set up their own collective switching clubs. Together with Government funded schemes households have saved around £20 million.

Q:        How many people have switched in the last few months?

A:        In 2014 Q3 731,000 electricity and 482,000 gas customers switched from one supplier to another. For electricity transfers this represented a 5 per cent increase in the numbers of transfers from the same months the year before. These are the latest quarterly switching figures from Ofgem and don’t include the numbers of people who switch to new tariffs within the same supplier.

Throughout 2014 3.1 million people shopped around and switched for a better deal on their gas bills, according to Energy UK’s latest figures.

Q:        How do I shop around and switch?

A:        For advice on switching simply visit Ofgem’s Be an Energy Shopper website on goenergyshopping.org.uk/howtoshop or call the Energy Saving Advice Service (ESAS) on 0300 123 1234 or Home Energy Scotland on 0800 808 2282.

Customers can also get help to switch via the Government funded Big Energy Saving Network – an outreach project to help elderly and vulnerable people struggling with their bills. Details of your local volunteer group are available on gov.uk or call your local Citizens Advice.

Confirmed suppliers

British Gas

Ecotricity

EDF

E.On

First Utility

Good Energy

Npower

Spark

SSE

Utility Warehouse

 

Scottish Power – end of January

Co-op – (TBC)

 

Extra Energy – plans in place to offer faster switching shortly

Green Star – now operating at 3 weeks with plans in place to offer full faster switching shortly

Ovo – plans in place to offer faster switching shortly

 

Source: Department of Energy & Climate Change

First published: 14 January 2015

Part of: Helping households to cut their energy bills, Climate change and Energy

 

During 2014 our customers saved an average of £262 on their annual energy costs in under 30 minutes! Find the best value deal for you here.

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