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How to switch energy company

Over 250,000 people switch energy company or tariff every month. Energy companies want to make the switching process as simple and hassle-free as possible, which is why they have recently launched the Energy Switch Guarantee. The Guarantee is an industry-led initiative which aims to increase customers’ confidence in the switching process.

There are several ways to switch. You can:

  • phone your energy company or look at their website to find out what deals they have
  • use one of the accredited price comparison websites
  • or you can switch at events in shopping centres and supermarkets

Which switching websites should I use?
All recognised switching websites should display the Confidence Code logo. Ofgem's Confidence Code is a Code of Practice which was set up to help make switching easier, more reliable and to give reassurance to consumers. Information on the Confidence Code can be found on Ofgem's website.

What information do I need to switch energy company?
To switch energy company, you'll need the following:

  • the name of your current tariff
  • how you pay for your energy (i.e. by direct debit, on receiving the of bill, etc)
  • how much gas and/or electricity you use

You will find all this information on your latest energy bill, or Annual Statement. You can still contact your energy company if you don't have this to hand.

What happens when I switch energy company?
Once you've decided to switch, and have chosen your new company, they will ask you for a meter reading. This is to make sure you are billed correctly.

Your new company will work with your existing company to make sure you're billed for any outstanding money that you owe. They will then get in touch with details of when your contract starts.

How long does switching take?
Energy companies work together to make switching as quick as possible. The process normally takes around 3 weeks from start to finish.

What happens when I switch tariff?
When you switch tariff, your energy company will transfer you across to the new one. There will be no interruption in your supply.

Will anyone need to come to my house to complete the switch?
No, it's not necessary for energy companies to visit your home to complete the switch. If you have any concerns, please contact your energy company.

Will my energy supply get cut off when I switch energy company?
Don't worry, energy companies use the same wires and pipes, therefore your energy supply will not be interrupted. If you are receiving a new meter as part of the switch, your new energy provider will contact you to arrange a suitable date for the installer to visit and explain the interruption ensuring it is managed safely.

What if I'm in debt to my existing energy supplier?
Customers who use a prepayment meter can switch supplier, and transfer their debt, even if they owe as much as £500 per fuel. The process is known as the Debt Assignment Protocol. For more information see our Debt Assignment Protocol - Frequently Asked Questions factsheet (PDF 100KB).

What can I do if I change my mind?
There is a cooling off period of 14 working days where you can change your mind. Just get in touch with your energy supplier to let them know.

What do I do if I want to make a complaint?
If you want to make a complaint about how your switch was handled, you should contact your energy company. Our how to make a complaint page has further information on how the complaints process works.

Save money on energy bills

A good way to save money and cut your energy bills is to take steps to make your home more energy efficient. Here are some energy saving tips to help you save energy.

Please note that these figures are sourced from the Energy Saving Trust.

Insulate your home

A third of the cost of heating your home is lost through the walls, so insulating them is the best way to save energy in the home. Installing cavity wall insulation can save you up to £160 per year on your heating bills. Check your loft insulation, as the Energy Saving Trust recommends having 27 centimetres of insulation installed in your loft to get the maximum benefits. 

Find out how to make your home more energy efficient through insulation on the Energy Saving Trust's website.

Choose your lighting carefully

Replacing just one old light bulb with an energy saving one or LED lighting can cut lighting costs by up to £35 a year. Turning off your lights when they are not in use can save more, upto £13 a year on your energy bills.

Replace your old boiler

About 60% of what you spend on your energy bills in a year is through your boiler, so upgrading to an A-rated high-efficiency condensing boiler could make a noticeable difference.

For more information on boiler replacement, read about it on the Energy Saving Trust's website.

Turn down your thermostat

Turning it down by 1 degree could cut your heating bills by up to 10 per cent and save you around £85 a year. You can also cut your heating bills by installing certain heating controls. If you don't already have a room thermostat, installing one could save up to £70 a year. 

Don’t leave appliances on standby

UK households spend an average of £30 leaving appliances on standby, so make sure to switch yours off at the plug. 

Draught proof your home

According to the Energy Saving Trust, draught proofing windows and doors in your home could save a between £25-£50 per year.

Use an electricity monitor

Electricity monitors show you in real time how much electricity you are using, which can help you make decisions about your energy use and become more efficient. At the moment you can get an electricity monitor from around £25 online and they are easy to install yourself.

Warm Home Discount

Under the Warm Home Discount scheme, Britain’s main energy suppliers provide over £320 million of support to over 2 million low income and vulnerable households each year.

Most customers who receive assistance under the Warm Home Discount will get a rebate on their bill, but suppliers will provide other forms of support too.

How the Warm Home Discount scheme works

Under the Warm Home Discount, customers in vulnerable situations and those on low incomes are helped in a number of different ways.

Over half of the funding across the scheme, goes directly to the oldest, poorest pensioners through a rebate worth £140 on their electricity bill. Whether or not someone is eligible is determined by Government, and depends on whether customers qualify for certain elements of pension credit.

Each supplier also offers the discount to a broader group of vulnerable and low income customers who apply for assistance.

Suppliers also continue to fund other activities to help people through benefit entitlement checks, debt relief and energy efficiency measures.

Helping to reduce fuel poverty

Providing financial assistance to those in need may help tackle fuel poverty, but more long-term solutions involve improving the energy efficiency of people’s homes. This is why suppliers also deliver the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Find out more about ECO.



How to avoid disconnection

Disconnection is used as a last resort and follows various attempts to recover a debt. It is rarely used and only in cases where customers won't pay their bills. Before disconnection is considered, companies try to find out the customer's situation and set up a payment plan or in some cases, install a prepayment meter.

The Energy UK Safety Net for Vulnerable Customers gives information on how companies protect vulnerable customers from disconnection.

On average energy companies make:

  • Six attempts to contact a customer by letter
  • One attempt to contact them by phone
  • One personal visits to the customer's home
  • One attempt to contact them by a visit to court
  • A final attempt to contact them before a warrant is given.

A final attempt is then made before an energy company is given permission by the courts to enter a customer's home and cut off their supply.

Why is disconnection used?

Without the possibility of disconnection for those who won't pay, energy debts would soon go up across the industry. This would affect all customers who pay their bills, including people on low incomes.

Disconnection numbers

Disconnections hit a high of 160,000 in 1986, before competition was brought into the energy market. In 2015 there were 253 disconnections according to the Ofgem Social Obligations 2015 annual report.



Help with your energy bills

Energy companies provide a huge amount of help and support for vulnerable customers, especially the elderly and those on key benefits.

Anyone who is worried about paying their bill or managing their energy use should contact their energy company.

There is help available ranging from regulation, voluntary initiatives and industry-led initiatives to Government schemes and more.

  • Warm Home Discount - Providing direct financial support to fuel poor customers via the Warm Home Discount (WHD). This winter, approximately two million low income customers will receive an energy rebate worth £140.
  • ECO - Britain’s eleven largest energy suppliers have an obligation to deliver energy efficiency measures to householders via the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO). As of October 2016, provisional figures show that 151,532 cavity wall insulation measures and 37,159 solid wall insulation measures have been delivered by suppliers under ECO2 since April 2015.
  • Trust funds – In 2014/15 obligated suppliers spent in excess of £15million on direct debt assistance to help households reduce or cancel energy debts via suppliers’ trust funds.
  • Energy Best Deal - Funding the delivery of bespoke energy advice via Citizens Advice’s Energy Best Deal and Energy Best Deal Extra advice sessions. This year the schemes are being funded by five suppliers who are collectively providing Citizens Advice with £1.4million.
  • Ability to pay -  All electricity and gas suppliers are required by their supply licence to take into account each individual customer’s ability to pay when agreeing repayment arrangements and must follow Ofgem’s key principles of ability to pay.
  • PPM principles – In October 2016 Energy UK launched a new set of prepayment principles. The new Energy UK Pre-Payment Meter Principles commit signatories to monitoring prepayment accounts after installation and on an ongoing basis to ensure customers can successfully work their meters. The new principles also commit to providing support and assistance for customers at risk of self-disconnection including reviewing the debt recovery rate for those in arrears and signposting customers to further financial support and debt advice. To date 13 Energy UK retail members have signed up.
  • Safety Net - Britain’s six largest energy suppliers have signed up to Energy UK’s Safety Net for Vulnerable Customers. Under the Safety Net, signatories have pledged to never knowingly disconnect a vulnerable customer at any time of year, where for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity, that customer is unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household. This year was the first that the results of the independent audit of the Energy UK Safety Net for vulnerable consumers have been published. The results of the Safety Net audit for 2015 show two suppliers attained the highest ‘Gold’ award while four others achieved Silver which recognises the significant efforts they have made to comply with the Safety Net commitments. There were no instances of non-compliance noted.
  • Energy Switch Guarantee - The guarantee has been designed to allow more consumers to benefit from the deal which best suits them. It sets out ten commitments for the switching process to promote: confidence; understanding; and willingness to switch. Find out more about the Energy Switch Guarantee.
  • Priority Services Register – Suppliers maintain a register of customers who are pensioners, disabled or chronically sick and/or have a hearing or visual impairment. These customers are given priority when reconnecting supply after during suppliy outage and are offered other means of non-financial support including free gas safety checks, free quarterly meter readings and energy advice.

Ways to pay your bill

Energy companies offer a number of different ways to pay your bill. These are:

  • Direct Debit - this is where a set amount is taken from your bank account every month. The amount is based on readings given by you or taken by the energy company.
  • Standard credit - this is where you get a bill once a month or once a quarter. When you get the bill, you arrange payment. The amount is based on an estimate of how much energy you've used, or the exact amount if based on a meter reading.
  • Pre-payment meters - these work in the same way as pay-as-you-go mobile phones. Instead of getting a bill for the energy that you have used, you pay for your gas and electricity before you use it.
  • Fuel Direct - this is a way of paying bills directly from your benefits if you are having difficulty paying your bills. The scheme can help spread out your energy costs.

There are two types of pre-payment meter:

  • Smartcard
  • Keys

You can top up your smartcard and keys from newsagents, garages and the Post Office.

Cheaper ways to pay your energy bill

You can help to cut the costs of your bills by choosing to pay by Direct Debit or to use paperless (online) billing. Direct Debit is usually cheapest because there are fewer costs involved for the company.

If you choose to pay by standard credit, or are on a pre-payment meter these may cost you more and the energy companies more. For prepayment meter customers, energy companies need to maintain and service prepayment meters and the network of payment points.


About your energy bill

Energy companies want to make their bills easier to understand, and are working with the Government and Ofgem, the regulator, to constantly improve them. They are planning to use simple and consistent language, and want to bring in a list explaining energy terms.

What's in your energy bill

Your energy bill contains:

  • The amount of energy used during a certain period of time
  • The amount of money owed (if paying by Direct Debit there should be details of monthly payments that have been made during the billing period)
  • The energy company's contact details in case of any questions or complaints
  • Information on how much energy was used during the same time the year before

How often you get your bill depends on how you have chosen to pay for your energy.

Annual Statements

Since July 2010, energy companies have been supplying Annual Statements to their customers. These statements contain the following information to let customers know more about their energy tariff and how they can switch:

  • The name of your current tariff
  • The amount of energy you have used in the last 12 months
  • An estimate of your usage for the next year
  • Details of any premium or discount that applies to your tariff when compared to your company's standard monthly direct debit tariff
  • A reminder that you can switch supplier, with signposting to independent advice on how to go about it

Find out how to switch energy suppliers.

A changing retail energy market

Changes in retail within the energy market have had an effect on:

  • Consumer choice
  • Energy efficiency
  • Consumer value
  • A decrease in number of complaints

For more information, download our factsheet here.


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