avoid switching mistakes

7 Mistakes to Avoid when Switching Energy Supplier

If you are thinking about switching energy suppliers because you are looking for a cheaper tariff or you are just fed up with your current supplier then you need to read this first. It may save you a load of potential hassle and hopefully help you save even more on your gas and electric bills.

I don't want to put you off changing energy suppliers but you do need to be aware of some potential pitfalls that could cause problems and stress later down the line.

Switching energy suppliers should be straightforward and hassle free and not feel like we are falling into some sort of trap. After all the government has been encouraging us to switch to save money.

How much can I save if I switch?

First things first, is it actually worth switching? For those who want the short answer it's Yes.

It takes no more than 5 minutes to do a comparison if you have your latest bill or statement from your current energy supplier to hand.

Most people who switch, especially those on a suppliers standard energy tariff can usually save hundreds. If you tend to check a couple of times a year than you are likely to be on a more competitive tariff already so the savings are unlikely to be as good unless your current supplier has decided to hike up their prices then it's time to look elsewhere.

Looking at the Ofgem accredited energy comparison sites and take an average of the savings claims it looks like you can save around £200 to £450 with many coming out around the £300 mark.

Whilst most of the claims are backed up their data samples are usually based on 10% of consumers performing a comparison.

As mentioned earlier if you are the sort of person who doesn't like being overcharged your regular comparisons are unlikely to save you anywhere near these figures. Conversely first time switchers can save more than the quoted figures.

You can see our up to date list of the current cheapest gas and electric suppliers in the UK.

Energy switching comparison savings claims

Below is a table showing the claimed savings of customers doing a switch with each of the Ofgem accredited energy comparison websites.

Comparison Saving Clarification
Energy Helpline £458 10% of customers from 2017 to 2018
Energylinx £195 20% of customers over 60 days
The Energy Shop £450 Says 'Saves up to' Does not clarify
Money Supermarket £302 Claimed saving for 10% of customers
My Utility Genius £250 Does not clarify
Simply Switch £390 Claimed 10% of customers saved this in 2015
Switch Gas and Electric £337 Does not clarify
Quotezone £300 Official Ofgem figures not Quotezone's
Unravel It £385 Does not clarify
uSwitch £447 Claimed 10% of customers saved this in 2015

The only real way of seeing how much you can save is punching your numbers into an energy comparison website such as Energy Helpline and comparing your specific circumstances.

Energy Helpline claims the largest savings and is the comparison service I recommend because of their long positive track record and possibly the largest switchable tariff database (20,000 tariffs) in the market.

Watch out for energy suppliers increasing their prices

You've switched and are pleased with your predicted savings but then get notified by your new supplier that they are increasing your direct debit or tariff rate.

I may feel like you have been duped as the amount you were quoted is no longer what you are paying monthly for your gas and electricity. Is it coincidence or just bad timing?

I've only recently switched and my energy supplier has just increase their prices?

If you are on a fixed tariff the cost you pay for the tariff will not increase, however you pay a higher rate for fixed compared to variable. A variable rate can increase at any time but your supplier has to give you 30 days notice giving you enough time to switch to a cheaper tariff. Variable tariff do not usually incur exit or leaving fees.

Energy suppliers all tend to increase prices close together so it can be worthwhile waiting till the dust has settled before you make a comparison and switch.

Generally if you are switching from a standard tariff to a variable rate then any tariff increase your new supplier will announce will not usually make you worse off than you would have been on a Big 6 standard tariff.

I'm on a fixed tariff but my direct debits have been increased?

Your energy company is saying you are using more gas and electricity than originally quoted your kWh usage as being. If you are on a smart meter or are sending regular readings then your usage is going to be accurate and unless their is a fault with your meter you are using more.

If you are relying on estimated meter reads then it could be that they are estimating more than you are using and the only way to remedy this is to send in more regular meter readings.

My new supplier has taken a direct debit payment already and I've only just joined them?

It is common practice now for non-Big 6 suppliers to take the first direct debit payment on the first day you join them. This is to keep customers accounts in credit and help the company's cash flow. The smaller energy companies do not have the resources of the larger suppliers and so cannot take on large amounts of debt upfront.

If you are on a tight budget and potentially having two direct debits for energy (one from your old supplier and one from your new one) coming out of your bank account in the same month then go for a new supplier who does not take advanced direct debit payments.

If the cheaper tariff you are switching to is a significant saving then it may be worth switching if it isn't putting you in financial hardship as the future savings will mean you will have more cash to spend on other things.

How do I know that I've got the cheapest deal?

The only sure way of knowing that you have the best possible deal is by making sure that your energy pricing comparison is the most comprehensive. It means using energy price comparison sites that compare the widest range of tariffs, the larger the comparison sites tariff database the cheaper your quotes will be.

One of the largest databases of UK energy tariffs that are regularly updated is that of Energy Helpline. They consistently bring back the lowest quotes and claim the largest savings of any comparison site.

Poor customer service

Energy companies haven't had the best track record when it comes to customer service. If an energy company has a poor level of customer service but cheap energy tariffs and you never have to contact them then poor customer service is never going to be a problem.

Every time I contact my new supplier it takes ages to get through to them and then I get fobbed off and passed from pillar to post?

Whether it's a new small energy company or one of the established Big 6 you can find yourself stuck on the end of a phone going round in circles. Unfortunately this can be your experience no matter who your energy supplier is.

However from time to time particular energy companies can experience periods of poor customer service. Outfox the market suffered such a fate due to a series of ill judged price rises and direct debit changes back in 2018 which lead to a significant number of complaints and lost custom.

As a result Outfox the market has a low Trustpilot rating but still have some of the cheapest energy tariffs on the market, actually the cheapest low and medium energy user tariff in January 2019.

If you are willing to put up with poor customer service and are unlikely to need to contact an energy company then go with a cheaper tariff.

I'm worried my energy supplier is going to fold

Of course this is a concern but if a supplier you are with happens to go under then your gas and electricity supply will continue to be unaffected. Any credit you have on your balance is industry protected and you will get it back.

You will have a period of hassle as your account is transferred to a new supplier. After which you are free to switch to whomever you want.

The main point is that you are not going to lose out financially and you will not be cut off.

I've recently switched and was in credit with my old supplier, how long is it going to take to get my money back?

It depends on how slow your old energy company is but from initiating a switch until the money appears back into your bank account it can take 12 weeks on the long side.

You won't be surprised to hear that generally energy companies do not like to refund your money. Some are much quicker than others but the process is that once your new supplier and old supplier agree on the final meter readings your old supplier will issue a final statement.

Once your final statement has been issued your old supplier will refund any credit balance due which tends to take up to a week from this point.

I'm worried about switching, what if something goes wrong?

Once a switch is initiated there are generally no problems and the switching process is smooth.

Problems can arise if you do not have a credit balance with your old supplier when the final statement is issued as the switch may be cancelled if any outstanding monies owed are not paid promptly.

You will however never be left without a gas or electricity supply due to the switching process.

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