How to switch energy suppliers – everything you need to know

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As energy firms across the UK raise their prices, you may be tempted to switch providers to save money

Energy prices seem to be in the news more often than not and with some MPs calling for the introduction of price caps, it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.

Do I have to pay to switch?

First, make sure you can leave your current provider without incurring a fee. Most tariffs allow you to switch for free, but if you’re on a fixed-rate or fixed-term tariff, you may well be charged an exit fee for switching provider early. However, all providers should allow you to switch without incurring a fee up to 49 days prior to the end of your contract.

Can I change my mind once I’ve switched?

Yes, but be careful. Most providers offer a 14-day cooling-off period to allow you to cancel your new contract. If you wait any longer, you may incur a fee.

How often can I switch suppliers?

You can switch suppliers once every 28 days if you want to. This may not get you the best deal every time, however, and you would be better off checking the status of your current plan every 6 months.

When should I switch?

As the saying goes, there’s no better time than now. If you haven’t switched provider in more than 12 months, you may have been automatically switched over on to the standard tariff for your current provider. This is likely to be their most expensive tariff, so switching to a different provider could save you money.

Otherwise, there is no one best time to do it. Savvy consumers switch just before winter sets in and the energy bills go up generally to cope with the colder weather and darker nights. All energy tariffs now have an expiry date - it’s a good idea to make a note of it so you can take advantage of the 49 day pre-contract-expiry period when there won’t be a switching fee. This is known as the ‘switching window.’ During this window, you will not incur any cancellation fees. This might explain why some consumers switch suppliers every 28 days!

What information do I need to switch?

All you will need is your postcode, the most recent energy bill which should give you the name of your supplier and the tariff you’re on, an up-to-date meter reading, and your bank details to set up a direct debit. Do make sure you have read your meter correctly: all meters in the UK should be read from left to right, and the red numbers or dials should be ignored. If you have a pre-payment meter, you will save money by switching to a supplier who can change you on to credit meter.

Which energy provider should I switch to?

The choice of provider is up to you. Energy comparison sites allow you to see for yourself which provider you think is best. The Which? 2017 survey results would be a good place to start looking. It ultimately depends on what you want from your provider, and what you want to gain from the switch.

Which tariff is right for me?

Again, this is down to you. There are tariffs to suit every need, including environmentally-friendly tariffs where the energy is taken solely from renewable sources. The Citizens Advice Bureau has produced a guide to understanding the variety of energy tariffs.

How long will it take?

Once you have actually purchased a new tariff with a new provider, the whole process of changing supplier should take roughly 17 days.

Will I lose my supply while I switch?

No. You will still be supplied energy while the two providers negotiate a switch-over date. The only thing that will change is the company that sends you the bills and, ideally, the amount you get charged.

Ultimately, switching your energy supplier should be simple, free, and save you money.

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