Many people stay with the same energy supplier for years, without realising they could be getting a better deal elsewhere. By switching suppliers, or joining an oil club, you could be saving hundreds on your fuel bill. Why pay more than you have to?
If you’ve never switched before it is well worth having a look around to see what’s on offer.
Shopping around for your energy supplier could save you as much as £200 or more, particularly if you have never switched before.
There are lots of price comparison websites that can help you compare what’s on offer. We recommend however that you use one that has been accredited with the Consumer Focus Confidence Code – this means that you know the information they are giving you is accurate and updated regularly.
View our video on shopping around for a better energy deal.
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Join an oil buying club
If you use heating oil it can be more difficult for you to shop around, but to get a better deal you might consider joining or setting up a local oil buying club.
Oil clubs are a great way to save money on fuel costs. In simple terms, you can use the collective buying power of a group in your local area to negotiate a better deal from oil suppliers by buying in bulk and getting deliveries at the same time. Discounts of up to 10 per cent are not uncommon, and they also help the environment by cutting down the number of tanker journeys on roads.
Also, buy early before winter and you might get it cheaper still!
Citizens Advice has produced a range of guidance and tips to help communities in setting up and running oil clubs which are also known as oil-syndicates, oil buying groups or oil-cooperatives.
Before you can work out if you can get a better deal elsewhere, you should find out how much you’re already spending each year on energy.
You can find how much energy you used over the last year by looking at your last four quarterly bills or annual statement from your supplier. You also need to find out whether you pay a standing charge and include this in the amount you spend. When you know how much energy you use, you can compare the prices from different suppliers.
You can do this by contacting each supplier individually to ask for their best rates. Or you can use an internet price comparison tool. Price comparison tools offer an easy way to compare the prices from lots of suppliers at once. The Consumer Focus website has a full list of approved price-comparison websites. You can also tell if a website is accredited, as it will display the Consumer Focus Confidence Code logo on its homepage.For more information about switching energy suppliers:
Price comparison websites offer a simple way for you to compare the prices offered by different suppliers and switch to better deals.
To help you decide which supplier and tariff are best for you, check to see whether the site you are using is accredited to the Consumer Focus Confidence Code. By using an accredited site, you can be sure the information you receive will be independent, accurate and up-to-date.
If you have an overdue bill with your current supplier, they can prevent you from changing supplier until the bill is paid.
This is called an ‘Objection’. If you do try to switch and they prevent it from taking place, they have to write to you and explain why they have objected to the switch, and what steps you can take to put things right. Usually this will be settling what you owe.
If you have a prepayment meter and have a debt of less than £500 (£200 up until 31 October 2012), you may still be able to switch. The debt can be transferred to your new supplier via something called the ‘debt assignment protocol’. Ask the supplier you wish to switch to about this.
Under new rules it should take no longer than five working weeks to change supplier - this is three weeks of switching time and a two week cooling off period. It may take a little longer over periods with a number of bank holidays such as Christmas.
If it takes longer than this you should contact the new supplier to find out why, as they may need more information to complete the switch.
The majority of households should not have a problem switching supply, but there are some exceptions.
if you owe your supplier money, they can prevent the transfer from taking place until you pay back what you owe.
if you have a special type of metering that only your current supplier can support.
You might need to arrange for a different type of meter to be installed so your new supplier can bill you properly, before you can change. You should discuss this carefully with your current supplier first however, as often these specialist meters provide additional functions you might lose if you remove them.
Some areas also have very specialised tariffs that combine heat and power from one source. This might affect your ability to switch. Consumer Focus's question and answer search tool can provide more information and advice.
After you have switched supplier, your old supplier will send you a final bill up to the date you left, which you need to pay.
Check the meter reading matches the one you gave your new supplier for the transfer date, and call them to have it updated if the reading is wrong.If you continue to receive bills after your supply date then contact the old supplier to find out why.
Make sure you know the day you switched supplier, and the reading on that date.
If your home is in a part of the UK that isn't connected to the gas mains network, you might use heating oil to power your central heating system and hot water.Find out how using domestic heating oil works and your consumer rights when you buy and use it: