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Switching suppliers
To get the best price, many people switch to a different supplier. If you are on a standard variable rate tariff, you could save money if you move on to a fixed rate deal with another supplier. Note: at the time of writing, energy companies had fewer tariffs available and these were typically at rates higher than the regulated standard variable tariff.
Some suppliers have stopped taking new customers and in some areas housing developers have found it challenging to find a supplier for new homes.
Switching supplier is normally fairly simple. The process usually takes around three weeks, after a 14-day cooling-off period when you can change your mind about switching. Suppliers are responsible for managing the switch. To protect consumers when switching, there are guaranteed standards of performance set in law.1EG(SP)S Regs as amended If suppliers fail to meet these standards, they must pay you compensation. The standards related to switching are:2Regs 6ZA and 6ZB EG(SP)S Regs
    a switch must be completed within 15 working days of the new supplier receiving sufficient information to proceed with the switch. The compensation is £30;
    an erroneous transfer payment can be made if a switch is made in error by a supplier. The amount you get, and which supplier pays it, depends on the circumstances. There is a template letter to help with erroneous transfers on the Citizens Advice website;
    your old supplier must issue a final bill within six weeks of no longer having responsibility to supply you.4Regs 6CA EG(SP)S Regs The compensation is £30;
    if you have any outstanding credit, your old supplier must refund you within 10 working days of the final bill. The compensation is £30.
How do you change supplier?
1. Gather information about your current tariff, payment method and usage over the last year – you can find this on your fuel bill or on your annual statement from your supplier. Use this information to compare suppliers. You can scan the QR code on your bill using a smart phone or tablet. This contains all the information you need to compare and switch supplier.
2. When you have found the best deal for you, agree a contract with a new supplier. The new supplier will write to you within seven working days to confirm the details. The new supplier will contact your current supplier for you.
See the sections below on price, comparing prices and other issues to consider before making a decision.
3. The new supplier will request a meter reading from you so that your old supplier can issue your final bill and your new supplier has the correct figure for your new bill. The new supplier will inform you of the date when your supply will be switched.
4. Check your final bill from your old supplier.
On your gas or electricity bill there is a gas meter point reference number (known as an ‘M number’) or an electricity supply number which is unique to your address. Once you have signed a contract which bears this number with the new supplier, the switch can take place – this should be sorted out between the new and old suppliers, although you can normally help by providing the M number or the supply number. Your present supplier may object to the transfer if you are in debt, but you are still entitled to switch where you have a prepayment meter and your debt is below £500 per fuel. For credit customers, if your debt is above £100, a new supplier has discretion whether to take you as a customer, and may do so if you have previously been a customer with a good credit history. The new supplier may not accept you if your debt is older than 28 days. In such cases, it may be difficult to switch until that debt is cleared.
It is also possible to stay with your current supplier and switch to a different tariff which is better for you.
Ofgem has a principle in place to help consumers make informed choices about which tariff they choose. There are specific principles on tariffs5Condition SLC 25; EA 1989; GA 1986 which say that tariffs must be clear and easily comprehensible, easily distinguished from each other and easily compared with other tariffs from the same supplier.
The following sections look at what to consider when deciding whether to switch and which supplier to choose. The Citizens Advice website also has information pages on how to switch suppliers and a price comparison tool.6England and Wales: