Customers most affected by the price rises were those on standard variable or default tariffs, which are usually assigned to loyal customers who have not switched or asked for a better deal.
Energy companies claimed the price hikes were largely due to the rising wholesale cost of energy; however, the energy regulator Ofgem’s price cap, introduced on January 1 this year, likely played a part. Ofgem implemented the cap to limit the amount that suppliers could charge for their standard and default variable tariffs.
While the cap is expected to keep costs down for customers on the most expensive deals, switching energy supplier or moving to a better deal will save you far more money on your energy bills.
Despite this, 54 per cent of energy customers are still on costly default tariffs and 61 per cent say they have never switched supplier, or have only switched once, according to Ofgem’s 2018 consumer survey.
Here, we explain how you can quickly and easily switch energy supplier without incurring costly exit fees and save hundreds of pounds on your bills.
Switching Energy Suppliers
Before you switch energy suppliers you need to be able to answer a couple questions:
Who is my gas and electricity supplier?
If you aren’t sure who supplies your gas or electricity or what tariff you’re on, you can find this information online. Use Meter Point Administration’s search tool Find my Supplier to find your gas provider, or use the Energy Networks Association’s postcode search tool to find your electricity supplier.
Once you have this information you can ask your supplier for your tariff details. If you haven’t switched energy suppliers in recent years, chances are you’re on a default tariff – and paying too much for your energy.
Fixed or variable tariff?
If you are on a standard variable tariff, you can switch to a new provider at any time without penalty. But if you have a fixed-term energy deal, it may come with exit fees attached if you leave early – these can be as high as £60 for dual-fuel customers.
Don’t let exit fees put you off switching to a better deal though. Sometimes the savings outweigh the fee and, in some cases, you may be able to avoid a penalty charge altogether.
Do your sums
If you are on a very high fixed-term tariff it could be worth cancelling your contract and paying the fee. To work out whether it’s worth switching, find the most competitive deal for you and subtract the exit fee from the savings you would make by switching. If it works in your favour, make the switch.
Switch energy providers near the end of your contract
Ofgem rules state that your energy provider is not allowed to charge you fees for switching if you are in the final 49 calendar days of a fixed-term contract.
If you are nearing the end of your contract and your supplier refuses to waive the fee, point them to Ofgem’s rules around the ‘switching window’. Before you switch, as your supplier if they are currently offering any deals. Most suppliers don’t charge exit fees if you simply switch to another of their tariffs. If your supplier has a good deal on offer, ask about switching without penalty.
Can I switch energy providers if I rent?
Yes, if you rent your home you can still switch energy providers without penalties. If you are responsible for paying your gas and electricity bill directly to your supplier rather than to your landlord, you are entitled to change to an energy supplier of your choice. Ofgem guidance says this is true even if your tenancy agreement forbids it.
Can I switch energy providers if I have a smart meter?
In short, yes. If you have a second-generation smart meter it will operate on new national infrastructure which allows all energy suppliers to operate it.
If, however, you have a first-generation smart meter, you can still switch but your new supplier may not be able to operate it. If this is the case, you will need to take readings manually. This is just a temporary issue though. All first-generation smart meters are expected to be connected to the new infrastructure in the first half of this year. This means that from July, all households with smart meters should be able to switch suppliers without losing their smart-meter functionality.
Can I switch energy providers if I am in arrears?
If you have been in arrears for 28 days or less, you can switch provider and the debt will be added to your final bill. If it has been longer, however, you can’t switch until you’ve paid off the debt.
Switch energy providers with The Telegraph
We’ve partnered with independent price-comparison service energyhelpline to bring you energy deals that could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Simply register your interest online by entering your postcode, plus details of your energy supplier, tariff and usage. These can be found on a recent bill.
We’ll search the market and contact you with details of the best energy deal for you – you decide whether to switch or not. If you go ahead, energyhelpline will organise your application and manage the changeover so you don’t have to.
Join The Telegraph Energy Club online or by calling 0800 542 7156 and save up to £577 on your energy bill
The above article was created for Telegraph Financial Solutions, a member of Telegraph Media Group Limited. For more information on Telegraph Financial Solutions, click here.