Energy – the electricity and gas you use to light and heat your house, your hot water and fuel for cooking – is as essential as the home itself.
Since the energy market was opened up to competition, the number of suppliers has grown and the range of different tariffs has proliferated. In general terms, this has been a positive and welcome development for the consumer, but it has also given rise to a potentially very confusing range of choices to be made and some difficult decisions when it comes to choosing the supplier and tariff that is appropriate for your particular needs and circumstances.
Shop around, urges the official energy regulator Ofgem. This is the obvious thing to do in a diversified and competitive market. Some of the statistics published by Ofgem for the first three months of 2016 suggest the benefits of doing so:
- around two-thirds of all UK consumers stand to save £325 a year simply switching from the existing supplier’s standard tariff to the cheapest fixed deal;
- in the first 3 months of 2016, 25% more consumers switched their energy supplier than in the same period last year;
- 52% of all those consumers who choose to switch energy supplies choose a new supplier (rather than simply switching to a different tariff with the existing supplier); and
- in the electricity and gas markets as a whole, there are now more than 40 independent suppliers.
How to shop
It may be all very well knowing that there are attractive savings to be made, but how might you go about finding the best energy deals? This is likely to be the aim of any consumer, but with concerns about making the eventual pension income continue to go round, might be especially important for the over 50s.
In fact, your search for both the supplier and the tariff that suits your particular, individual domestic circumstances is made considerably easier by an online comparison website.
Such a website allows you to compare like with like, specifying your individual needs and circumstances and showing how different suppliers and the different tariffs offered by each supplier might improve the costs of your energy bills.
How to switch
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau suggests that before deciding whether to switch, you might want to check whether there is any penalty imposed by your current supplier for ending the contract and the cost of this needs to be taken into account when comparing the figures. You might also want to check the customer service rating of any new supplier.
Once you have found an alternative supplier you may telephone or even make the switch online. The new supplier takes matters on from there, including giving notification to your current supplier that the switch is being made.
Your new supply will tell you when the switch is going to take effect – this is likely to be between 17 and 21 days after your initial request.
Immediately before the switch is made, on the day of the transfer, remember to take a meter reading of your gas or electricity supply so that you are not charged by your current supplier for any consumption beyond this date.
Finally, pay any outstanding bill with your former supplier or claim back a refund if your account is in credit.