Why Change Gas and Electric Supplier
Savings of £20-£25 a month in gas and electric bills are easily achievable if you haven’t previously compared prices and switched. Sometimes the savings are much more and finding the right supplier and making the switch is easy.
Gas and electric supply was privatised to provide more choice and to promote competition between suppliers. Those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to shop around have saved literally thousands of pounds in gas and electric bills over the years.
The Cheapest Gas and Electric Supplier
The cheapest supplier for you might depend on the pattern of your household consumption. Comparison websites such as uSwitch.com (there are others) allow you to enter your gas and electric consumption figures and immediately tell you who the cheapest is for you.
There is however a small fly in the ointment. The gas and electric companies do not change their prices simultaneously, so you may find that the cheapest this week will not be the cheapest next. There’s nothing sinister about this fact. It would be unreasonable to expect the companies to coordinate their gas and electric price changes. In fact it would be illegal.
KCS has been comparing gas and electric prices monthly for nearly two years for a real life two bedroom property and has found that EDF Energy has consistently been the cheapest or almost the cheapest every month. We cannot say whether that applies to all properties with different gas and electric consumption patterns.
EDF however has a price pledge which states that when they bill you for your gas and electric they tell you if you would have saved more than £1 a week with another supplier. For most people this is sensible alternative to endlessly checking gas and electric prices and switching regularly to get the absolute lowest price supplier and it at least ensures that the supplier stays high up in the competitiveness league.
Please note that KCS does not endorse any of the gas or electric companies mentioned in this article. We simply report our findings as to their gas and electric charges and meter installation costs at the time of publication.
Pre paying for Gas and Electric
It is never financially beneficial to pay for gas and electric through a pre payment meter. Most suppliers charge considerably more for pre paid gas and electric than they do with quarterly credit meters.
Even those few companies who charge the same price for both still leave you a little worse off than you would have been with a credit meter. This is because if you pay for your gas and electric by monthly Direct Debit you usually receive a small additional discount and a further dual fuel (see below) discount if appropriate. Duel Fuel discounts are not available with pre payment gas and electric meters. It is much cheaper for the gas and electric companies to administer Direct Debit accounts than pre payment ones.
Gas and Electric Dual Fuel Tariffs
Customers nearly always benefit from having both gas and electric supplied by the same company. The companies give a duel fuel discount to consumers who buy both their gas and electric from them.
Many gas and electric companies give a further discount if you manage your account on line. This arrangement has an added advantage of allowing you to enter gas and electric meter readings as often as you like and the bill is calculated immediately. It allows you to ensure that your Direct Debit stays at the correct amount to cover the gas and electric you are using and helps you control your consumption. You are alerted quickly if you are using more gas and electric than you can afford to pay for.
Direct Debit Payment
You almost always benefit from paying by monthly Direct Debit. If you are on a low fixed income or receiving state benefit you should not necessarily be too concerned about Direct Debits being taken from your bank account when you have little or no money (perhaps because your benefits or pension has been delayed).
If you manage your bank account on line you can, if you don’t have the money, stop the Direct Debit a day or two before it’s due to go out and reinstate it later in the month and make an extra payment. So you get all the advantages of the cheapest gas and electric prices but still control the payments as you would with a pre payment meter.
And if you receive Winter Fuel Allowance or cold weather payments you can simply pay the money straight over into the gas and electric account after it arrives in your bank so it’s with the gas and electric company before they bill you. These special payments cover the greater part of many recipients’ Winter gas and electric bills.
Changing gas and electric suppliers and meters
If the gas and electric meters are already in your own name try a comparison website to find the cheapest deal and follow the instructions given when you find the right one. Usually this means simply telephoning the new gas and electric company and they will guide you through it.
You don’t have to contact the old gas and electric supplier at all unless you want to. But it might be worth telephoning your existing gas and electric supplier to tell them that you have discovered a cheaper deal and are changing. They may offer you a cheaper tariff and you may be satisfied with the saving offered. You don’t need to haggle with them, or be particularly assertive. Simply telephone them and tell them that you are changing gas and electric supplier.
A minor complication arises if your gas and electric are on pre payment meters. If you already have quarterly credit meters for both gas and electric the problem doesn’t arise. But if the gas and electric are on pre payment meters they will need to be changed to enable you to get the best deal. Some gas and electric companies do it for free but some charge significant sums. KCS is aware that EDF Energy does not charge even if you are a new customer. When we last checked NPower were charging £60 each for both the gas and electric meters for both new and existing customers.
The arrangements become a little more complicated still if you are moving home. You firstly need to tell the existing gas and electric suppliers to the new property who you are. They then set up accounts in your name based upon the meter readings. That even includes accounts for pre payment meters because although the previous occupant may have left the card or key, and you can top it up in a shop with gas and electric credit, there still has to be an account in your name before it can be switched.
Only when the old suppliers have the accounts in your name can you telephone the new gas and electric supplier and tell them you want to change. It is however still quite easy and although it takes an hour or two of your time in total the savings are wholly disproportionate to the time expended.