How to switch gas and electricity

Last updated: 11 September 2020

In this guide, you’ll find answers to the following questions:

  • Why should I switch my gas and electricity?

  • When’s the best time to change energy supplier?

  • What do I need to switch?

  • How to switch energy supplier: step-by-step guide

  • How do I compare energy prices?

Why should I switch my gas and electricity?

How long have you been on your current gas and electricity plan? If it’s been a while, then it’s time to switch energy provider – doing so is likely to save you hundreds of pounds each year. It’s a simple process too, thanks to trusted energy comparison websites, which make it easy to weigh up your options and switch energy supplier.

All you’ll need is your postcode and a recent energy bill to find the best energy deals. 

When’s the best time to change energy supplier?

If you’ve never switched your energy supplier or moved from the default standard variable tariff, then the time to compare deals and switch is now. Otherwise, any change in circumstances – from coming to the end of a fixed-term deal to moving home – provides a good reason to switch electricity supplier (and gas too if applicable). If you’ve remained loyal to the same supplier for more than a few years, then changing energy supplier is extremely likely to save you a significant sum.

For example, if you don’t take any action after coming to the end of a fixed term tariff, you’re likely to spend a good deal more than you bargained for because you’ll be rolled on to your supplier’s standard variable tariff. You should change both electricity supplier and gas provider in good time to avoid this.

With so many suppliers and plans out there on the market, you’re almost certain to find a cheaper deal than the one you’re currently on. If you have a prepayment meter or smart meter, you should still be able to switch using an Ofgem-rated comparison website to compare plans that suit your situation. 

What do I need to switch?

The process will run much more smoothly if you collect the following bits of information first:

  • Your name

  • Your address and postcode

  • The name of your current gas and electricity supplier

  • The name of your plan/tariff

  • The amount you spend on gas and electricity

  • Your bank details

You’ll find nearly all this information on your latest energy bill, so it’s helpful to have it close to hand before you start. If you can’t find one, contact your current supplier to ask.

When can I switch energy supplier without penalty?

Check your current tariff’s terms and conditions to see if any exit fees apply should you terminate your contract with your supplier. In the vast majority – if not all – cases, there should be no exit penalties on standard variable or default tariffs. However, if you’re on a fixed-term plan, there may be an exit fee – typically £30-£60 per fuel – applied if you cancel your tariff early to switch to another. Note, if your tariff has 49 days or less or run, then suppliers should allow you to switch your tariff ahead of the end date without incurring a penalty.

How to switch energy supplier: step-by-step guide 

Once you have all the details in hand, take the following steps to switch energy suppliers.  

1. Visit an energy price comparison website

Be sure that the website you’re using is approved by energy regulator Ofgem. It offers a full list of approved sites compliant with the Confidence Code standards. These approved energy comparison sites provide a free, user-friendly switching service with detailed information for each tariff, along with any relevant discounts.

2. Enter the requested information

Because gas and electricity prices vary according to where you live, enter your postcode into the website to view plans that are available in your area, with accurate figures for what you’ll have to pay. The comparison site will also request details of your household’s energy consumption. If you can’t provide this through a recent bill, you can usually answer a series of lifestyle questions instead.

3. Compare your options

After inputting your details, you’ll be taken to a results page showing all the suppliers and plans available. These will usually be ranked with a clear outline of what’s included in each plan. There are many things to consider, including customer ratings and price. 

4. Select your supplier and tariff

When you’ve found a suitable plan and energy supplier, click on it to set the wheels in motion. Your new supplier will then organise the switch for you. You’ll need to submit your full address and payment information, along with meter readings.

How do I compare energy prices? 

When you’re offered a long list of results, comparing options can seem like quite a daunting task. Make use of the website’s filters to narrow the field further when comparing energy prices. Try viewing plans with no exit fees or hide everything but fixed-rate energy plans – both steps usually help reveal most of the cheapest deals on offer.

Most sites provide a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about the plan, including how popular it is with other consumers in your area. You can also look beyond the price to review other key factors like eco-friendliness, customer satisfaction scores and prepayment options to find the best fit. 

Which type of plan is best for me?

Another way to whittle down your options is to think about your personal situation. What’s most important to you in an energy plan? 

Type of planThings to consider
Lowest priceFixed-rate plans usually offer the cheapest tariffs, and provide you with peace of mind that the price you pay for each unit (kWh) of energy you consume won’t change during the duration of the plan. But many come with expensive cancellation fees if you try to switch before the tariff is coming to an end.
Freedom and flexibilityPlanning to move to a new home? Prefer to switch suppliers regularly? Variable rate or standard plans may appeal here, but while there are no exit penalties, they tend to be more expensive.
Prepayment meters While you may have fewer options to choose from, you’re still able to switch suppliers with a PAYG top-up meter.
Evening use If you’re away from your home for most of the day and use the bulk of your electricity overnight, an Economy 7 or similar multi-rate plan where you pay less in the evening for your energy could be a great fit.
Environmentally friendlyMost suppliers now offer green tariffs containing some or all renewable electricity, plus carbon-neutral gas. They’re a bit more expensive than the cheapest plans, but are well worth it if reducing your carbon footprint is important to you.

Can I switch suppliers if I'm in debt?

Prepayment meters are usually installed when a customer is in debt to their gas or electricity supplier. These require you to pay for your fuel in advance, with a percentage of the payment applied toward the outstanding debt. 

It’s a little trickier but not impossible to switch suppliers with debt, but this will depend on the timeframe and amount of money owed. For debts of 28 days or less, the amount will be added to your final bill. If the debt is over 28 days old, you’ll need to pay it off before you can switch energy supplier, unless the bill was generated in error. 

Are tenants allowed to change energy supplier?

If you’re responsible for paying your energy bills, it doesn’t matter whether you rent or own your home – you should be able to change suppliers if your name is on the bill. Check your tenancy agreement to see who’s responsible for paying energy bills, and whether your landlord has listed a preferred energy supplier. If one is listed, you’ll need to check with your landlord before switching and potentially return the account back to the original supplier when your tenancy has ended. 

If your landlord’s responsible for paying the energy company directly, you won’t be able to switch suppliers without consultation. Many landlords install prepayment meters to avoid any issues with paying energy bills. You have the right to replace this with a normal meter, provided you’re not behind on your bills. Again, you may have to reinstall the original meters at the end of your tenancy. 

What's the transition period?

You’ve selected a plan and sent over your information to the new supplier. What happens next? You enter a transition period while your details are processed, and your new supplier arranges the switch-over. It’ll get in touch to confirm a date, which can take up to 21 days. There’s no disruption to your gas and electricity service during this period, and there’s no need for an engineer to come and fix new cables or pipes.

Your new supplier will send you a welcome letter with all the information about your new plan, including what’s included and the rates. Read it carefully to be sure it’s what you’re expecting. To close your account with the old supplier, you’ll be required to pay any outstanding debts and give them a final meter reading. 

What happens if I change my mind about switching?

If you’re having second thoughts about switching, you can hit the brakes so long as you contact your new supplier. The cooling-off period lasts for 14 days, during which time you can cancel without incurring a penalty. 

Even if you’ve recently switched, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the cheapest gas and electric plans and compare energy suppliers from time to time. There’s no need to stay locked into a plan that’s not serving you - just be aware of any exit fees, particularly if you’ve chosen a fixed-term plan. 

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Published on Wed 23 Oct 2019 12.34 GMT