Energy switching to get speedier

Someone making a brew, yesterday
"24-hour switching should be the ultimate goal," Jeremy Cryer,
  • | by Emily Bater

The energy industry has pledged to drastically reduce the time it takes to switch provider from almost six weeks to two-and-a-half weeks by the end of 2014.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced that gas and electricity switching times will halve by the end of 2014, making it quicker for consumers to change energy supplier as part of the government's ongoing attempts to shake up the energy market.

The announcement comes as Ofgem, the UK's energy regulator, launches a new campaign encouraging customers to shop around for their energy.

'Be an Energy Shopper' aims to make people keener to compare their energy and, in the process, loosen the apparent stranglehold of the big six on the UK's energy market.

Faster switching has been in the offing for a while now - last year, First Utility's Fix the Switch campaign called to cut the time it takes to change energy provider from around a month to a single day.

So while a reduction to two weeks is a step in the right direction,'s Jeremy Cryer thinks that 24-hour switching should be "the ultimate goal".

"This would give consumers much more power over their energy suppliers and encourage more people to seek out the best deals and take more control of their finances," said Cryer.

'Be an Energy Shopper?'

According to new research by Ofgem, 21 million consumers are missing a trick when it comes to energy shopping - almost half of the 5,048 adults surveyed by the watchdog don't shop around, while over half were confused by energy tariffs. A third of people surveryed were concerned by the cost of their energy.

The survey also revealed that 45% don't feel they could save much money by switching and 24% thought it would be too much of a hassle.

Ofgem has already reduced the number and complexity of tariffs and made communications from energy companies easier to understand, and now the energy regulator is encouraging customers to shop around more.

As part of the 'Be an Energy Shopper' campaign Ofgem has launched a new website, which includes tools to help people compare tariffs, a jargon buster to explain the language used on bills, and links to other useful sites.


Trust for the big six is at an all-time low - in March the regulator recommended that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) undertake a two-year investigation of the industry.

Energy firms' profits have increased from £223m in 2009 to £1.1bn in 2012, according to a report published by Ofgem.

The latest initiatives come at a time when a lot of energy companies are announcing price freezes - SSE is the latest to fix its gas and electricity prices until 2016, and others are likely to follow suit.

"Despite energy bills representing a significant outgoing for many UK households, many people still aren't shopping around to ensure that they are getting the best deal on their gas and electricity," said energy expert Caroline Lloyd.

"In fact, our research has found that 15% of consumers have never switched their energy provider,* which may explain why a quarter of households are spending more than 10% of their monthly disposable income on energy.**

"While the government and the regulator try to tackle competition and supply issues and the pressure this places on energy prices, it's important that consumers also take an active interest in their energy spending and shop around regularly to control their costs.

"It takes minutes using a comparison site to compare the tariffs available from all of the UK's energy companies - and don't limit your search to just the so-called big six. There are lots of smaller, independent providers out there, too."

Ofgem CEO Dermot Nolan said: "We shop and compare prices for many things in life, yet we often don't think to do the same when it comes to our energy bills, even when we could be saving around £200.

"Previously, people found it difficult to compare tariffs and the process too time consuming, but the recent reforms have changed things for the better.

"With the introduction of 'Be an Energy Shopper' it has never been easier to go energy shopping and get a better deal on your gas and electricity."

Would speedier switching persuade you to change your energy provider? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter.

*On 16-17 December, 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,005 randomly selected UK adults who are Springboard UK panellists.  The margin of error - which measures sampling variability - is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding

**Based on research commissioned by and carried out by Consumer Intelligence on 13 and 14 December, 2013, with 2,016 UK adults who are customers of the big six energy suppliers (British Gas, Scottish Power, E.On, Npower, EDF, and SSE)