How to change your energy supplier
Changing suppliers is simple. The energy companies arrange the changeover for you.
You won't need a new meter or rewiring if you switch suppliers, and you won't experience a break in your electricity or gas supply.
You don't need your landlord's permission to change energy suppliers, but it is polite to let them know when you move out.
Find the best deal
Shopping around for a better deal on your gas and electricity can save you £200. Suppliers offer special discounts to customers to transfer.
Price comparison websites are the easiest way to look at the deals from different suppliers. For example:
Ofgem, the energy regulator, has produced a guide about switching energy supplier. It will help you make sense of bills, tariffs and which price comparison sites are accredited.
When you use a price comparison site, make sure you have your bills to hand as you'll need:
- the name of your current energy supplier
- details of your current energy tariff
- how much gas and electricity you use each year
Your energy bills will contain details of your tariff and how much energy you use.
Make sure you understand the terms and conditions before you sign a contract.
Price is important when choosing an energy supplier, but you should also think about how long the contract ties you in and if you have to pay a fee if you end it early.
Choose the right tariff
Energy suppliers offer a range of tariffs. You need to decide which type of tariff is most suitable for you, for example:
- fixed tariffs protect you from possible future price rises because the price is fixed for an agreed period (usually two to four years). They can be more expensive at the start and there are often fees for ending the contract early
- capped tariffs protect you from price increases because the price can't rise above an agreed level during your contract. They can be more expensive at the start
- economy 7 tariffs are a good option if you have a night storage heater because the price of your electricity is cheaper at night on this tariff
- green energy tariffs are a more eco-friendly option because they require the energy company to contribute to environmental schemes or use energy generated by renewable sources, but they can be more expensive
Suppliers offer discounts if you:
- get your gas and electricity from the same supplier, known as a dual fuel contract
- manage your account online with no paper statements
- pay by direct debit
Some energy suppliers offer customers on low incomes a Warm Home Discount on their energy bills.
Switch to a new supplier
To make the switch, you have to provide relevant information to the new supplier. They arrange the transfer.
If you used a price comparison website, you will have entered much of the information already and can complete the process online.
You should be directed from the comparison site to your new supplier's website to set up your account. You can also set up your account with the new supplier by phone.
Just before the changeover you are asked for your meter readings, probably by both suppliers. This is to make sure your old and new suppliers know how much electricity and gas to charge you for.
You always have a 14-day cooling off period during which you can cancel your new contract if you change your mind.
Once the cooling off period is over, it takes about 21 days for the transfer to your new supply to be set up.
If a doorstep salesperson tries to persuade you to switch suppliers, don't feel pressurised into signing a new contract straightaway. Research other options first.
Salespeople are not allowed to tell you that their offer will be withdrawn if you don't sign up immediately.
Help if you have problems paying fuel bills
If you have problems with fuel bills or debt you can get face-to-face help from specialist Shelter advisers, funded by the British Gas Energy Trust. The initiative is part of a wider partnership between British Gas and Shelter to improve homes in the private rented sector. This includes help with the cost of energy-saving home improvements. You can also contact the Energy Saving Trust for information on similar services provided by other energy providers.
Last updated 02 Jan 2015 | © Shelter
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