According to the energy regulator Ofgem, the majority of gas and electricity customers have never switched energy suppliers. This is estimated to cost customers a collective total of around £3.5bn per year.
With much more competition in the marketplace, it makes sense to periodically shop around for a better deal, even if you buy from a single supplier, and enjoy a 'dual fuel discount'. If you're currently buying gas and electric from separate suppliers, you can almost certainly save by switching to a single supplier. Further savings can be made by managing your account online, and paying by Direct Debit.
If you 'inherited' your supplier from the properties previous occupants, it's also worth looking into what other deals providers are offering. Whilst the previous occupants may have been on the best tariff for them, your requirements may be different and moving to a different tariff may mean cheaper bills.
How to Switch Your Energy Supplier
The process of switching is fairly simple. You'll need to gather details of your average usage from previous bills first. With this information you can then assess the packages on offer using a price comparison service online. Bear in mind that you'll be looking for the cheapest tariff based on your own usage. The tariff listing will list the individual unit prices for the energy, so you can easily estimate the bill if you know your total usage for the previous year. If you can't get this info from your bills, you can always contact your supplier instead. Tariffs now come in 'fixed rate' and 'variable' varieties, which will give you something else to consider when making your calculations. If you don't want to take the risk with a variable tariff, then a fixed rate tariff will give you peace of mind in paying a set unit price for the specified period.
It's worth noting that if you're on a prepayment meter, you can only apply for other prepay tariffs. If you're on a billing meter, you have much more choice in terms of tariffs.
Once you've selected your provider and tariff, it's simply a case of contacting them to process the switch. They will take care of the 'back end' tasks in a similar way to how the bank switching service works. You should receive a new contract and terms within 10 days of your application, as well as confirmation of the switch.
Most providers have a cooling off period, within which you can cancel the switch. This is normally 7-14 days, depending on provider. Once the cooling off period has elapsed, the new provider will contact your current provider to begin the switching process, which takes a further 4-8 weeks, but your new supplier will contact you to confirm the switch date, and details of when the first payment is due.