When is the best time to switch gas and electricity supplier?
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Switching at the right time
One of the most effective ways of saving on your household bills is by switching to a cheaper energy tariff.
With suppliers changing the wide range of tariffs they offer on a regular basis, you’ll often find your best option is to get a more competitive deal by switching away from your current supplier. However, in some cases, switching to a new tariff with your existing provider may be the cheapest course of action.
If you are switching energy supplier entirely, there are two things you should take into account – the importance of comparing suppliers before making a final decision, and timing your switch appropriately.
Below are some top tips to consider if you're looking for best time to switch energy supplier.
If you haven’t switched in a while
If you haven’t changed your electricity or gas tariff or supplier in the last twelve to eighteen months, you may have been placed onto your supplier’s standard tariff, which is often their most expensive. This is because most energy tariffs do not tend to last longer than eighteen months (although longer ones are available), and at the end of this period suppliers automatically move customers onto their standard tariffs.
Comparing tariffs and switching to a new deal in this situation can save you from having to pay inflated prices. The savings are even bigger if you’ve never switched suppliers – households that have never switched may save an average of £400 per year on their energy bills.
When prices go up
You may also save money if you switch suppliers when energy prices are set to rise. In the past, the Big Six energy suppliers – E.ON, EDF Energy, British Gas, Scottish Power, Npower and SSE – have consistently increased their prices in the run up to winter. When one of the Big Six companies increase their prices, the others tend to quickly follow. Once a price increase is announced, the best way to avoid paying these higher prices is switching to an existing fixed rate energy tariff that effectively freezes the amount you have to pay for your energy for a set period of time.
Any fixed rate tariffs that have the pre-price rise rates will have a set capacity limiting the number of customers the suppliers are willing to provide that fixed rate to. Once this capacity has been reached, the tariff will be removed from the market, and likely replaced with a more expensive alternative. This means you’ll need to act quickly once price rises are announced if you want to secure a fixed rate tariff at the lowest rates.
However, while you might be keeping a close eye on the Big Six energy suppliers, it’s important not to ignore the smaller, independent suppliers who may offer a cheaper alternative to the Big Six, and are becoming increasingly popular because of this.
Switching electricity and gas suppliers before the winter months can be useful as most households use more energy in the winter than at any other time of year, so being on a higher rate during this time can be costly. Checking prices in late summer or early autumn can help you figure out if there are cheaper rates available compared to the rate you are currently on. Switching itself can take between two to four weeks. Make sure to take this into account when deciding the best time to start looking to switch before winter.
When your current deal expires
With the exception of standard tariffs, suppliers are required to specify an ‘end date’ for all tariffs they offer. It is important to make a note of your tariff end date as suppliers can automatically move you onto their expensive standard tariff if you do nothing when your tariff expires. To avoid paying more than you need to, it is important to arrange a switch – either to another tariff from the same supplier or to a different supplier altogether – when your existing deal is close to finishing.
It's advised that you switch no less than two weeks before your tariff end date, although you can do so as soon as you receive a notification letter from your supplier that your tariff is due to end. Suppliers are required to send these communications between 49 and 42 days before your tariff end date. Any cancellation fees associated with your tariff that you’ll need to pay if you try to switch away early will not apply once you’ve received this notification letter.
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