Energy switching myths: debunked

In this guide, you’ll debunk the following myths:

  • An energy switch isn’t worth the interruption to my energy supply

  • There’s too much admin involved in switching energy supplier

  • Switch will only save me pennies, not pounds

  • If I switch energy supplier, I’ll need to have new wires and pipes installed

  • I can’t access the internet, so I can’t make an energy switch

  • I’m renting so I can’t change energy supplier

  • I don’t need to switch energy supplier, the energy price cap means I have a great deal already

Have you heard any of these energy switching myths?

Switching energy supplier or tariff is virtually guaranteed to save you money and ensure you’re on the best energy deal. Unfortunately, it’s not always made clear how to switch energy suppliers and some myths have sprung up around the process to make it even more confusing. In this article we expose the truth around some of the common misconceptions that surround your energy switch. Long story short: you’ve nothing to lose, and lots to gain by performing an energy price comparison and switch supplier! 

Myth: An energy switch will interrupt my electricity and gas supply

False. Your energy switch should be totally seamless. Your old and new energy supplier will work together to complete the change, so you will go from one to the other without noticing any disruption to your services at all. 

Myth: There's too much admin involved in switching energy supplier

False. The Energy Switch Guarantee makes it easy to change energy supplier and ensures that you don’t have to do anything more than give your initial permission for the change. Everything else is done by your old and new suppliers. The big six suppliers have all signed up to the scheme, as have a number of smaller energy suppliers:

  • British Gas

  • Bulb

  • E.ON

  • Ecotricity

  • EDF Energy

  • ESB Energy

  • Green Network Energy

  • Igloo Energy

  • M&S Energy

  • npower

  • Octopus Energy

  • Pure Planet

  • ScottishPower

  • Shell Energy

  • So Energy

  • SSE

  • Yorkshire Energy

The Energy Switch Guarantee requires these suppliers to ensure the following:

  • Your service will not be interrupted at any point in the energy switch

  • You will not be charged to switch energy supplier (though exit fees will still apply if these are a feature of your current tariff)

  • It will take 21 days or less

  • Unless you require a new meter to be installed, there will be no home visits required

  • Your new supplier and new supplier will coordinate, so you don’t have to notify anyone of the switch yourself

  • You will have a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period to change your mind

  • You won’t be charged twice as your old and new suppliers will work in tandem to end your old plan and start your new one

  • Your new energy supplier will commit to investigating and fixing any issues with the switch

  • Your final bill will arrive within six weeks

  • You will be refunded any money owed to you by your old supplier within two weeks of receiving your final bill

The ESG takes these promises seriously, and several providers have been forced to withdraw from the scheme due to non-compliance over the years.

Myth: I can’t compare energy tariffs fairly through a comparison service

False. Energy comparison tools are designed to show you the best energy deals from a wide range of suppliers. You can filter your results according to your precise needs – green energy, dual fuel, payment method, and so on – and make your choice. Many comparison tools will also include the estimated pricing for providers that you must contact directly if you want to change energy suppliers, even if selecting them means not using the comparison site. 

Myth: Switching will only save me pennies, not pounds

False. An energy switch in any capacity will almost certainly save you money. Energy suppliers usually save their best energy deals for new customers, so switching will save you a significant amount – particularly if you’ve never done so before. Even if you’re happy with your current supplier, changing tariffs can also make a big difference. If you’re on a variable plan, for example, changing to a fixed plan can save you hundreds of pounds a year.

If you’re on a prepaid meter, you can still save money by switching, but for maximum savings you should explore exchanging your prepaid meter for a standard one if possible to gain access to better fixed-rate deals almost certain to be cheaper than prepaid plans. 

Myth: If I switch energy supplier, I’ll need to have new wires and pipes installed

False. All suppliers use the same delivery pipes and wires to supply your home, and as part of the Energy Switch Guarantee, no one needs visit your home to complete an energy switch. The one exception to this will be if you need a new meter installed, like a smart meter, but otherwise the switch will be done remotely without any interruption to your service or home.

Myth: I can’t switch if my energy supplier has gone bust

False. When energy suppliers go bust, Ofgem (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) steps in to ensure your supply isn’t disrupted by transferring you to another supplier. Whatever plan you’re transferred to, you should be free to switch to another tariff or supplier without penalty if you’re not happy with Ofgem’s choice

Myth: When Ofgem switches energy supplier for me, it will be more expensive

Not always. If your energy supplier goes out of business, it’s up to Ofgem to step in and make sure customers are transferred to new plans to ensure they are not left without power. Ofgem requires competitor energy companies to bid for these customers, meaning they offer their best energy deals to acquire tens of thousands of customers all at once. 

However, to cope with the demand of so many new customers, the new supplier may need to purchase wholesale energy to accommodate them all. In this case, the tariff you’ve been transferred to, known as a ‘deemed’ contract, may work out pricier than your original energy plan. The new supplier will get in touch to confirm details of the new plan, but you’re not obliged to stay on it, so take the opportunity to compare energy tariffs online. You won’t be charged an exit fee if you switch, so you can change supplier if you find the best energy deals are available elsewhere. 

Myth: Ofgem will transfer me to an untrustworthy ‘emergency’ supplier

False. Ofgem does not have ‘standby’ energy providers for when it needs to make an energy switch on behalf of failed energy companies; you will only be transferred to reputable suppliers. Most recently, Ofgem moved swiftly in December 2019 to move customers of Breeze Energy to British Gas, and then again in March 2020 when it transferred Gnergy Limited’s domestic customers to Bulb.

Myth: I can’t access the internet, so I can’t make an energy switch

False. While online price comparison sites are one of the simplest ways to compare energy tariffs, many Ofgem-approved switching services also have call centres to help you make an energy switch. The process is like online price comparison, where you share your post code and current supplier. You will then be presented with the top choices for your criteria and you’ll be able to make the switch over the phone. 

Myth: I’m renting so I can’t change energy supplier

Not always true. This depends on your landlord, as well as who pays for utilities. If you pay for your energy use, and provided your landlord permits it, you will be able to compare energy tariffs, find the best energy deals and ultimately switch energy supplier if you wish.

You should always check with your landlord before you make an energy switch and see what is expected of you at the end of the tenancy. For example, if you arrived in the property when it had a prepaid meter and want to change in order to secure a cheaper tariff, you may need to switch it back at the end of your tenancy to avoid being held responsible for changes to the property. This may result in you having to pay for the prepaid meter to be refitted. 

While you’re not entitled to switch energy supplier if your landlord is paying the energy bills, if you feel you’re being unfairly charged then it may still be worth finding the best energy deals for your circumstances and approaching your landlord with these better options. Bear in mind, though, that they are under no obligation to make an energy switch for your benefit.

Myth: I don’t need to switch energy supplier, the energy price cap means I have a great deal already

False. The Ofgem energy price cap sets a limit on the amount customers can be charged for energy. The price cap is also only applicable to variable rate tariffs, which are likely to become more expensive than any fixed rate plan as prices fluctuate. The cap itself can do likewise and can increase year on year so your perceived level of protection may not be very much at all. In addition, most suppliers offer better fixed rate deals to tempt customers into signing up for 12 months or more. In short, if you want the best energy deals, you should actively compare energy tariffs and consider an energy switch rather than assuming the cap will keep prices down. 

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Published on Thu 31 Oct 2019 12.00 GMT