Switch energy supplier or tariff

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

If you’re trying to save money on your gas or electricity, you might consider either:

  • switching suppliers

  • switching to a different tariff with your current supplier

An energy tariff is a pricing plan for gas or electricity from your energy supplier. To help work out the best tariff for you, check the most common tariff types and what they mean.

There haven’t been many switching deals available because of problems with the cost of energy. This is starting to change and you might see more deals being advertised.

If you want to switch tariffs, you’ll need to work out the best one for you based on your situation. You’ll need to think about how the cost of energy could change and what this would mean for your deal - it could end up costing you more.

Check if you can switch

To check if you can switch, you need to know what energy tariff you’re on. If you don’t know, check your latest bill or log in to your online account with your current energy supplier. 

If you’re on a standard variable tariff 

If you’re on a standard variable tariff you can switch at any time.

If you’re on a fixed tariff

If you’re on a fixed tariff contract you can switch if you have 49 days or less left on your contract.

If you have 50 days or more left on your contract, you might have to pay an exit fee to leave your contract early. Contact your supplier to check.

If you’d have to pay an exit fee to switch, check:

  • when you’ll be able to switch without paying an exit fee

  • how much you’d save by switching

You might save more by switching, even if you have to pay an exit fee.

When your fixed tariff ends you’ll usually be automatically put on your supplier's standard variable tariff.

When you might not be able to switch

You might not be able to switch energy supplier or tariff if you owe your energy supplier money. Check what you can do if you owe your energy supplier money and you want to switch suppliers.

If you pay your landlord for your energy you won’t be able to switch yourself, you’ll have to ask your landlord to do it. Check how to manage your energy supply if your landlord pays.

If you’re on a heat network you can’t switch suppliers. If you think your bills are wrong or unfair you can contact your supplier. Check how to challenge a bill if you're on a heat network.

Check if the tariff will work for you 

If you’re thinking about switching to get a better energy deal, you should check if the tariff will work for you. 

Think about what you want from a tariff and how important it is, for example if you want:

  • a flexible tariff that you can get out of at any time

  • an environmentally friendly tariff

  • the cheapest tariff available

  • an electric vehicle tariff

You should ask your supplier about their deals and compare tariffs with other suppliers to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. You can check other suppliers' tariffs using a price comparison website. Not all websites will show the same tariffs and suppliers, so it’s a good idea to check several.

You should check each website to make sure it’s trusted. Some websites might be scams and offer deals that are too good to be true. Check if something might be a scam.

After you’ve found a good deal, contact the supplier directly by phone or online. You should check they offer the deal you want. You can search online for the supplier's contact details.

If you're switching because of poor customer service from your energy supplier, you can compare the customer service ratings of different energy suppliers.

You might find it helpful to work out your monthly household budget. It might help you make a decision about the best type of tariff for you based on what you can afford. The more energy you use, the more it will cost. You can use the budget planner on the Money Helper website.

If you’re thinking of switching to a fixed tariff

Most fixed tariff deals are cheaper than the current standard variable tariff. This means you’ll usually save money if you switch.

However, if the price of energy goes down, you might save money in the long term staying on a standard variable tariff.

If the price of energy stays the same or goes up, switching to a fixed tariff could save you money.

We don’t know how the price of gas and electricity will change, you’ll need to decide the best option for you. 

If you’re budgeting and you need to know the rate you’ll be paying for your gas or electricity, you might find it helpful to switch to a fixed tariff. 

You can check what the different tariffs means and how they work.

Check your meter will work on your new tariff

Before switching to a new supplier, you should check that your gas or electric meter will work on your new tariff.

If you have a smart meter

Before you switch, check if your smart meter will work in 'smart mode' after switching.

Smart mode means your meter automatically sends readings to your supplier.

You can check if your meter can work in smart mode after switching.

In prepayment mode

If you have a smart meter in prepayment mode you’ll need to choose a ‘prepayment tariff’ - this means you pay for your energy before you use it.

Not all energy suppliers will offer prepayment tariffs. Use a comparison website to check which suppliers do. 

If you don’t owe money to your gas or electricity supplier, you can ask for your smart meter to be switched to credit or direct debit mode. This means you’ll pay for your energy after you’ve used it. 

You’ll be able to choose from a wider range of energy tariff deals if you pay by direct debit and choose a fixed tariff. Check how to move from prepayment to credit.

In time of use or ‘Economy 7’ mode

If you have a smart meter which charges you different rates for certain times of the day, this means you’re on a time of use or multi rate tariff.

A time of use tariff is ideal if you need to use energy overnight or at certain times of the day. For example, if you charge an electric vehicle overnight or if you have storage heaters. You should check you're using your storage heaters efficiently.

If you don’t need to use energy overnight or at certain times of the day, you might save money switching to a single rate tariff - for example, a standard variable or fixed tariff. Before switching to a single rate tariff, contact your supplier to check they can switch the mode on your smart meter.

If you don't have a smart meter

Your new supplier might ask you to agree to have a smart meter installed before they’ll let you switch. You can check what your supplier will do if you get a smart meter.

If you have a prepayment meter

You’ll have to choose a ‘prepayment tariff’ - this means you pay for your energy before you use it. Not all energy suppliers will offer prepayment tariffs - if they do, they might not be as competitively priced. 

If you don't owe money to your prepayment supplier, you can ask to have your prepayment meter swapped to a credit meter. This is where you pay for your energy after you use it.

You’ll be able to choose from a wider range of energy tariff deals if you pay by direct debit and choose a fixed tariff. Check how to move from prepayment to a credit meter.

If you have a two rate or ‘Economy 7’ electricity meter

Contact your new supplier before you switch to check the tariff will work on your two rate meter. Not all suppliers offer two rate or time of use tariffs.

A time of use tariff is ideal if you need to use energy overnight or at certain times of the day. For example, if you charge an electric vehicle overnight or if you have storage heaters. You should check you're using your storage heaters efficiently.

If you don’t need to use energy overnight or at certain times of the day, you might save money switching to a single rate tariff - for example, a standard variable or fixed tariff. 

Before switching, contact your new supplier to check their single rate tariff will work with your two rate meter.

How to switch

Once you’ve decided on your new supplier you should contact them to switch - you can do this over the phone or on their website.

You don’t need to contact your current supplier and tell them you’re leaving - your new supplier will do this for you.

You’ll have a 14 day ‘cooling-off’ period during which you can cancel the switch without paying a fee. Your cooling-off period begins the day after you agree a contract with the supplier.

During the switching process you’ll be asked when you’d like to switch to your new tariff. You can either switch:

  • as soon as possible after you've agreed your new contract - this could take up to 5 working days

  • 5 working days after your 14 day cooling off period has ended - this might be up to 21 days after you agree your new contract

If you want to switch on a specific date, contact your new supplier to ask if you can do this. For example, if you’re coming to the end of your fixed tariff and don’t want to switch until it ends.

Take a meter reading on the day of the switch to give to your new supplier. This means they won’t charge you for energy used before the switch.

You’ll need to pay your final bill to your old supplier. They’ll send it to you within 6 weeks. If they don’t send your final bill in time, they might owe you compensation.

If you have money left on your account with your old supplier, they’ll refund you. They must refund you within 10 working days of sending you the final bill. If they don’t refund you in time, they might owe you compensation.

Check if your old supplier owes you money.

If you want to cancel your switch

If you want to cancel your switch you should tell the supplier you’re switching to as soon as possible.

If you haven’t been switched yet they’ll stop it happening. You’ll stay with your old supplier.

If you have been switched and you’re still in your cooling off period, tell your new supplier you want to cancel. They should explain your options as soon as they can. You’ll have 15 working days from when they explain your options to:

  • agree a new contract with your new supplier

  • agree a new contract with your old supplier on ’equivalent terms’ to your old contract - this means agreeing to terms and conditions similar to those you had before switching

  • agree a new contract with a different supplier

If you don’t do anything, after 15 working days you’ll be put on a ‘deemed’ contract with your new supplier - this is a standard variable tariff.

If you return to your old supplier they have to offer you similar terms to your old contract within 16 working days. The 16 days start the day you switched to your new supplier.

Your new supplier must continue to supply your energy until you agree to a different contract with them, or a new contract with a different supplier. You'll need to pay for the energy you use.

If you want to switch after the 14 day cooling off period has ended, you might have to pay a fee to leave early. Contact your supplier to check. 

If there’s a delay with switching suppliers

You might get compensation from your energy supplier. How long your supplier has to switch your energy supply depends on when you asked for your switch to happen.

If you asked to switch as soon as possible, you should be switched to the new supplier within 5 working days.

If you agree the contract before 5pm on a working day, the 5 days starts on that day.

If you agree the contract at any other time, the 5 days starts on the next working day.

If you asked to switch at the end of your 14-day cooling-off period, you should be switched to the new supplier within 5 working days. This starts on the working day after the cooling-off period ends.

A working day is any day from Monday to Friday that isn’t a bank holiday. For example, Good Friday isn’t a working day.

If you haven't been switched within 5 working days, contact the supplier to check they have the information they need. If they do, they should automatically pay you £30.

Your supplier should pay you the £30 within 10 working days. They'll either send you a cheque or pay directly into your bank account.

You can complain to the supplier if they don't pay this.

If you need more advice about compensation, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.

Further help

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need more help - a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone, online chat or by email.

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or top up your prepayment meter you might be able to get extra help. Check if you can get grants and benefits to help pay your energy bills.

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Page last reviewed on 24 August 2023