Switching our suppliers

It has been said that competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.  One of the main reasons behind the privatisation of energy companies was that it would supposedly lead to improved quality and lower prices as a result of competition.

Energy Companies will only compete if they know that customers will go elsewhere if they are not satisfied they are getting the best deal.  According to figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change the overall trend in the numbers of consumers switching gas and electricity suppliers is generally downwards.  This in spite of an estimate recently produced by the government’s Competition and Markets Authority that 95% of energy customers could be paying less based on a lower tariff.

There are around 28 million domestic electricity customers and 22 million domestic gas customers in Great Britain.  There were just under 750,000 electricity transfers and close to 600,000 gas transfers in the second quarter of 2015.  If more people shopped around it would encourage the energy companies to be more competitive to retain customers (as well as saving money for those who switch of course).

Switching need not be difficult.  The first thing to do is to compare what you are paying with what is available.  You will need the names of your supplier and your tariff, which you can find on your energy bill.  It is also useful if you know how much gas and electricity you have used in the last year.  There are various tools and calculators available on line which will help you to find the right tariff for you (like the one on the Citizens Advice website –https://energycompare.citizensadvice.org.uk/).

Before switching,

–                check whether your current supplier will charge you an ‘exit fee’ to leave,

–                find out whether your current supplier offers a cheaper tariff

–                if you are a pensioner and your current supplier provides the Warm Home Discount, check that it is available from your intended new supplier,

–                look into the customer service rating of the potential new supplier.

Citizens Advice publishes  a quarterly energy supplier league table which includes customer complaints data from the 19 largest energy suppliers operating in Great Britain.  You can find this at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-a-better-energy-deal/compare-customer-ratings/

Finally, think about what you want from your new tariff:

–                flexibility (the ability to change the tariff without charge),

–                whether it should based on energy from renewable sources,

–                cost alone

There is a lot of information available on-line to help you decide on the best energy supplier for you.  You can find it by visiting:

–                https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,

–                https://casws.org.uk/ to find out what’s happening at Citizens Advice Waverley

You can also get free, confidential, impartial and independent information and advice on Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare from Citizens Advice.

If you don’t have access to a computer (or don’t want to) you can call your CAB on 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.)

Last but not least, you may want to follow us on Twitter @ Waverley CAB

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