Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is it time you thought about a switch to a different energy provider (UK)

1. Check your paperwork
Compare prices, gather some recent bills together to get some information about your energy use.

You'll need details such as the name of your supplier, the type of tariff you're on and the amount of gas or electricity you consume.

Alternatively, you could download the energy bills table from the Rip Off Britain Guide to Getting a Good Deal.

If you can work out how much you spend a year, you'll have a more accurate picture than by just looking at a single month.

The best deal is likely to depend on how much energy you use. Most deals charge more for energy used up to a given low amount and then a cheaper rate for additional usage.

2. Find the best deal

Research the tariffs offered by individual companies yourself or you can use a website to help find the best deal.

There are a number of price comparison sites on the internet such as uSwitch or UKPower.

Ofgem has a list of accredited sites. Try out more than one to see what they can offer.

3. Choosing the best tariff

Check you won't have to pay a penalty for cancelling your current contract

Cost isn't the only factor to consider, It's worth looking into customer service too - do they run 24 hour emergency cover?

Find out whether the company offer any incentives or discounts if you switch to them

Prepayment meters can help with budgeting but are often a more expensive option

If you move to a new supplier you have a 14 day cooling off period after the switch when you can change your mind

If you're behind with payments, contact your fuel supplier straight away. They must offer you an arrangement to pay off the arrears at a rate you can afford

You can choose a fixed tariff which means the cost of your fuel will stay the same for the duration of your deal, even if the company puts its prices up. (going up as I type.)

It makes it easier to manage your money. However, you won't benefit if prices go down.

You also need to check whether you'll have to pay a penalty if you want to end the tariff before the end of the contract.

A variable tariff means that the cost of every unit of energy can go up or down.

4. Dual-fuel deals

If you have gas and electricity, you can choose to buy both from the same supplier.
It means you're only dealing with one company which makes it easier to complain if you have any problems.

Some companies will offer a discount if you do this - but be careful because these tariffs don't always give you a better price.

5. Switching

Once you decide you want to change supplier, you'll need to contact both of the companies involved.
If you switch via a comparison site, they'll contact the new supplier for you.

You'll need to provide a meter reading to your new supplier on the day of the switch. They'll pass it on to the other company so you can be billed for the correct sum.

6. Easy ways to save more

You might be able to save significantly simply by paying by monthly direct debit.

Your annual usage will be estimated and your payments will be averaged out over the year.

Over-payments will be refunded - but it's a good idea to keep an eye on your meter to check your estimated bills aren't much too high or low.

Usually you will also receive a discount if you choose paperless billing. This means you access your bills online.

7. Do you qualify for help?

There are government schemes which can help older people or those on low incomes with energy payments or to improve the energy efficiency of their home.

These include the Warm Home discount scheme, the Winter Fuel payment and the Cold Weather payment.

if you qualify - take any help you are entitled to...

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