Guest blog written by Maggie Boyle
Switching tariff or supplier
If you haven’t switched supplier for over 12 months (or 18 months if your last tariff was fixed for that long) the chances are that you are overpaying for your gas and electricity.
If you are not in debt to your supplier then if you pay your own fuel bills you can switch tariff or energy supplier whether you own your own house or live in rented accommodation (if your landlord pays your fuel bills you will have to speak to your landlord to discuss whether a change of tariff or supplier is an option).
Switching tariff is easy - it takes one phone call to your energy supplier to ask whether there is a cheaper deal. If you are on a standard variable tariff (the term of your fixed deal has finished) then there will be a cheaper deal offered by your supplier (they should tell you that on your bill but if you can’t see that information then when you ring them they will inform you what is their cheapest deal for you) and you can decide to switch and save yourself some money this year.
You can usually save more money by finding the cheapest supplier for your circumstances. So before you decide whether to stick with your old supplier and agree on a new fixed deal it is a good idea to check what other suppliers are offering.
Finding the cheapest deal
Find the cheapest supplier by using a comparison site. Not all comparison sites work the same way. Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, a non-ministerial government department and an independent National Regulatory Authority) has a list of accredited switching sites (see their list below).
Which supplier can offer you the cheapest deal will depend on your circumstances: what area you live in, whether you can pay monthly, by direct debit, manage your account online, whether you have a prepayment meter, whether you have a meter using a single tariff or use a dual tariff meter such as Economy 7, how much energy you use, etc. You will need your electricity bill when you access a comparison site to make sure you provide all the information so that the search finds the best tariff and supplier for you.
How to choose a good deal
Usually the best deal is a fixed deal for 12 or more months, this means your bills won’t go up for that length of time. A variable deal may look cheaper but it is likely that the price of energy will go up over winter and this will make your bills higher than those on a fixed deal over the course of the year.
There are other things to take into consideration: if you are on benefits you are likely to be eligible for Warm Home Discount and will need to check the new supplier can offer that.
You need to look out for all the information about the deal that the comparison site is showing you.
If you are in debt or can't afford to pay your bills
If you are currently in debt to your supplier you may still be able to change supplier if you are on prepayment meters or have not had the debt for over 28 days.
If you can’t afford to pay your bills you can negotiate with your supplier about how to reduce it.
There is a lot of helpful information about your options in the Citizen’s Advice website
Sustainability Connections is a Community Interest Company who are currently funded by the Lottery to provide support to help people reduce their fuel bills. We are not paid by any utility company nor do we receive a fee from any utility company for helping someone to switch. Our advice is free and unbiased. To get some help reducing your bills this winter drop into the Folkestone Power Cafe, for details see the Power Cafe page on our website www.sustainabilityconnections or go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Sustainabilityconnections/ and click on events.
List of Ofgem accredited switching sites
My Utility Genius
Switch Gas and Electric
The Energy Shop
For more on comparison sites and why to use an Ofgem accredited one see http://ow.ly/87v130gst6O