4th August 2021
Make sure you're not paying more than you need to for gas and electricity. Use our expert advice to switch energy firm with confidence, and choose a deal that’s right for you.
Most energy customers we’ve spoken to find switching supplier quick and straightforward. It can take as little as 10 minutes to choose your new supplier and tariff online, although it will take another 16-18 days on average for your supply to be switched to the new company.
Here, we set out the switching process, including what you’ll need, what to look out for, and what to do if you have a problem.
The more detailed information you can provide when you're getting a quote for a new gas and electricity tariff, the more accurate it will be. Make sure you have the following information to hand.
Prices vary by region, and some energy deals are only available in certain areas, so using your full address will make sure that the quotes you get are applicable to your home.
You’ll need to provide these so that any savings estimates are based on the deal you’re currently paying for.
If you don’t provide the name of your current tariff, a price comparison website will often assume you’re on your supplier's default or out-of-contract tariff. This may be more expensive than your current deal, so you risk getting an over-inflated savings figure.
Without the name of your current energy supplier, the default used may be the company that historically supplied your area. As with assumptions about your tariff, there’s a risk that this will make your savings look bigger than the reality.
To find out the name of your energy tariff, check your latest bill, look at your online account or contact your supplier.
To get an accurate quote for gas and electricity costs, you'll need to state your energy use, usually in kilowatt hours (kWh), for the past year.
Your latest bill or online account should tell you how much you've used in the past month. Look for your annual energy statement or summary for your use over a year.
If you don’t know how much energy you will use – for example, if you've just moved into a new home – you can estimate instead. Price comparison websites, energy firms and autoswitching services will often ask a few questions to estimate what you use, for example:
Bear in mind that calculating your payments in this way will be less accurate than using your actual energy use. So a few months into your contract, your payments could change to reflect how much gas and electricity you're actually using in practice.
To pay by direct debit, you'll need to provide your bank details upfront (sometimes credit card details are allowed).
With all these details to hand, you’re ready to compare energy prices. The most popular way to switch is via a price comparison website, although contacting suppliers directly is also common. Not many people have used new autoswitching services so far, but this may change in time.
Price comparison websites show you a range of deals so you can compare costs. Our free and independent service, , is one of these. It shows all available energy deals on the market, regardless of whether it can switch you to them, so you’ll know whether the deal you pick is really the cheapest.
Some price comparison websites (including Which? Switch) have a phone switching service.
Contacting an energy company directly is the second most popular way to switch, according to our survey. Bear in mind that the company will only be able to tell you about its own deals, and it won’t be able to switch you to those that are exclusive arrangements with third parties (such as price comparison websites).
Our investigation into switching pitfalls, published in March 2020, found that several of the biggest energy firms don’t offer their cheapest deals on their own websites.
Autoswitching services are the new kids on the block. There's a growing number of them, although only a small proportion of switchers have used them so far.
Like price comparison websites, they compare prices based on your preferences. But they do the legwork for you, switching you (with your permission) to what they calculate to be the best deal for you, then continually checking prices to keep you on the best deal. Some won’t switch you to suppliers whose service they consider to be poor.
Regardless of the switching method you use, there are various types of tariff to choose from, depending on what's important to you. Here are some of the most common ones:
Once you’ve chosen your energy company and tariff, check the following to avoid any surprises later:
It takes 16 days to switch your electricity supplier and 18 days to switch your gas supplier, on average, according to energy regulator Ofgem*.
That’s not including the 14-day cooling-off period the supplier must leave in case you want to change your mind before it begins the switch.
Overall, most people (86%) found switching energy supplier fairly or very easy. Just 4% found it difficult. The rest were noncommittal.
When we spoke to those who had found switching energy supplier difficult**, the most common reason were:
If you’re keen for a quicker switch you can choose a company signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee – a set of voluntary standards launched by the energy industry in 2016. Sine 2019 new rules require energy companies to compensate switchers if there's a problem. See below for more on this.
Companies signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee commit to switching your energy supply within 21 days (including the cooling-off period).
These are: British Gas, Bulb, EDF Energy, Eon, ESB Energy, Goto Energy, Green, Igloo Energy, Octopus Energy, Outfox the Market, Pure Planet, Shell Energy, So Energy and SSE (correct July 2021).
They also guarantee to contact your old energy supplier to tell it you’re leaving, work with it to make sure you’re not charged twice, and take responsibility if there are any problems.
*(Ofgem Jun 2021)
**(Survey: September 2020, UK, 8,086 energy customers)
If something goes wrong when you switch energy supplier, you may be eligible for compensation.
Ofgem rules state that energy firms must pay customers £30 if:
Different rules apply to suppliers that have gone out of business.
The compensation is automatic, although you may need to tell your energy supplier about the problem. In February 2020 Ofgem said customers had already received £700,000 of payments from suppliers. Nearly three-quarters of this was paid out for late credit balance refunds.
If you rent your home, you can still usually switch your energy supplier to get a cheaper deal.
If you pay your energy company directly for your gas and electricity, then you can choose your energy supplier. This is according to consumer protection law.
But if your landlord pays the energy company direct, they can choose the energy supplier. You might be in this situation if:
If your landlord pays the energy bills, you can ask them to change your supplier but they don’t have to.
Your tenancy agreement might include a ‘default’ or preferred energy supplier that your landlord or estate agent has set up. You can ask to renegotiate this clause in your contract. Even if you can't change it, you're entitled to switch company as long as you pay the bills directly. You should inform your landlord or letting agent, though, and there may be a clause that requires this.
There may also be a clause stating that you must return the account to the original energy supplier when you move out.
If you've just begun a new tenancy or haven’t switched energy supplier or tariff in a while, it’s likely you’re on the energy firm’s standard default or out-of-contract tariff. These are rarely the cheapest deals, so it’s worth comparing energy prices to see what you could save.
Select the length of your tenancy to compare energy prices based on how long you know you’ll be in your home, taking any exit fees into account.