Gas and electricity Updated:
Have you been thinking about switching energy suppliers, but been put off by the thought of lengthy switching times? Well, you're in luck, as official figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that it could take just 17 days to switch suppliers, and the pay-off could be worth it.
That 17-day timeframe may still sound like a lot, particularly when compared with things like switching bank accounts, which should now take no longer than seven working says thanks to the Switch Guarantee. However, it's a drastic improvement on a year ago when switching suppliers took as long as five weeks, and the Government has even set a target for 24-hour switching in the future.
It seems that more people are taking the plunge, too, as a whopping 3.1m consumers shopped around and switched suppliers to lower their gas bills last year. Given that you could save up to £405 by doing so, according to figures from energyhelpline.com, it makes a lot of sense to join them!
"We've introduced more competition in the energy market and made it much quicker for people to switch energy supplier," said Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey. "Industry is delivering on my challenge, so now my challenge is for more consumers to take advantage. There's never been a better time to shop around, switch and save money faster than ever before."
Switching could be even more important for those who are struggling to pay the bills. Despite some firms announcing price reductions in the last few months – most recently E.ON, which has cut average rates by 3.5% in response to falling gas prices – it hasn't been enough to counteract the rapid increases witnessed over the past few years.
According to research from energyhelpline.com, those on low incomes (who have a household income of £15,000 or less) are finding it particularly tough, thanks to energy bills for the UK's poorest having risen at twice the UK average. The survey found that 30% of low income respondents were "genuinely worried" about being able to put food on the table due to sky-high living costs, while 48% also said they'll only heat their home up to 18°C in January/February rather than the recommended 20°C.
"Many of the UK's households living in fuel poverty are forced by high prices to shiver in cold homes, often suffering illness as a result," said Mark Todd, director of energyhelpline. "Now we hear that the energy bills for Britain's poorest households have risen at twice the rate of the UK average, which is a bitter pill to swallow.
"Millions will risk their health in cold homes this winter. It's clear that many of our most vulnerable households are scared to put the heating on for fear of receiving a bill they can't afford, [and] it's unacceptable that in 2015 millions of Brits face a heat or eat dilemma. With wholesale gas prices down 27%, the big energy companies could cut standard gas prices by up to 13.5%. We urge suppliers to give a big helping hand to their loyal customers so 2015 is less chilly for them."
It's hoped that more suppliers will follow in E.ON's footsteps and will cut the cost of tariffs, and ideally at a higher rate. In the meantime, the advice is clear – compare the options to see if you could switch to a cheaper tariff, because with several available for under £1,000 a year, it could well pay off.
"Standard tariffs are almost always expensive and anyone on one should get off it now," added Mark Todd. "Now that some energy companies have cut the time it takes to switch between suppliers to 17 days, down from five weeks last year, it's also much quicker to start reaping those vital savings."
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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.
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