One of the main reasons given by those who have not yet taken advantage of comparison websites is the hassle switching can bring. The main part of the worry is the time it might take. Nobody wants their bills to be in a state of limbo, and many people still believe that switching can take a long time. Things are better now but switching hasn’t always been as seamless an experience. Although it may seem like a long time ago, pre-2013 a lot of energy switches didn’t exactly run smoothly.
An EU directive was introduced in 2013, designed to pressure energy suppliers towards a maximum 21-day switch. Since then, all energy suppliers have needed to report to OFGEM on switching times.
Many energy suppliers have signed up to the OFGEM Energy Switch Guarantee. All signatories to the guarantee must ensure switches are completed within a 21-day window.
21 Day Energy Switch Guarantee
All of the UK’s big six energy companies along with another 12 or so suppliers can meet this guarantee. Its aim is to make sure that customers can switch supplies with more confidence and a promise that the process will not drag on.
In most cases, the switch will happen between 14 and 21 days. This is because customers are given a 14-day cooling-off period to consider the deal they have signed up to. Cancelling during the 14-day cooling-off period won’t incur any charges or penalties. Once the 14-day window has expired, your new supplier will get to work to complete the switch.
Looking to the future, OFGEM has a goal of achieving an industry standard 1-day switch. The target date for this was 2018, which has been and gone. The 14-day cooling-off period makes it a difficult idea to put into practice.
How long does it take without the Energy Switch Guarantee?
By not being a part of the voluntary 21-day scheme, an energy supplier will not be penalised for failing to meet that target. This does not mean that they will waste time as they still want your custom as soon as possible. Even if the 3-week window cannot be met, it is almost unheard of for switches to take any longer than 6 weeks in the UK today.
Can I do anything to speed up the process?
Your new supplier will operate as quickly as they can, but you can make sure you do not slow the process down.
By making sure that you provide accurate meter readings when requested, your start point and final bills can be processed much quicker. Looking through your personal information to check for any mistakes in your name, address, or any other information will also be a big help. Check your account with the energy supplier you are leaving. If you have a prepayment meter and are over £500 in debt, you will not be able to switch. Your switch will also be blocked if you have a standard meter and have been in debt for over 28 days.
How does the process work?
You will start by comparing the best deals on the market. Once you have selected the best one for you, you will sign up for that deal. The new supplier will then get in touch with you to give you an estimate of how long the switch will take. At this point they can ask for any more information they need from you.
There is no need for you to call and let your old supplier know. This part of the process all happens in the background.
On, or very close to the switching day you will be asked for meter readings. Your new supplier will use these to open your account. Your old supplier can use these to compile your final bill. If you are in credit, you will receive a refund instead of a bill.
That’s it, you will now be being supplied energy from your new supplier.
Will I have to go without gas and electricity while the switch happens?
No. There is no switch to press or lever to pull in order to change your account. This means that your supplies will continue as normal when the changeover happens. You will not see the lights flicker or notice any other change at all.