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Gas and electricity competition - information for consumers
You could save money by switching tariffs or energy suppliers but comparing suppliers and choosing the right deal can be confusing.
Energy suppliers can offer you up to four core tariffs for gas and four core tariffs for electricity. A tariff means the rate you pay for gas and electricity. Check which tariff suits your circumstances then compare tariffs between suppliers. Find out which services the energy supplier provides and which discounts may be available to you.
If you sign a contract with a new energy supplier you have a cancellation period of 14 days during which time you can cancel if you change your mind. The Citizens Advice consumer service can provide you with more information.
In the guide
Choosing a supplier
The price charged for gas and electricity varies between energy suppliers. They can offer up to four core gas and four core electricity tariffs and contracts that give you a choice over how you manage and pay for your gas and electricity. To make it easier to understand your bill, there is only one charging structure made up of a standing charge and the unit prices of the gas and electricity. You should obtain as much information as you can on the different energy suppliers and their products before switching. Be aware that if one energy supplier cuts/increases its prices the others may follow. Wait until prices stabilise before going ahead.
It is important that you calculate how much energy you are currently using and how much you pay for it. This will ensure that any comparisons you make between tariffs, services and contracts are accurate. The method you use to pay for your gas and electricity (as in direct debit or other payment method) will also be a financial factor. You can check your online statement, your annual statement (if you still receive a paper copy) or ask your current supplier to help you work it out. You can then use this information to compare suppliers or to see if your current supplier can offer a cheaper deal.
There are price comparison websites that will help you find a better deal. Consider using price comparison websites that are signed up to the Ofgem Confidence Code. This code of practice, which is managed by Ofgem (the UK gas and electricity regulator), sets out the rules that member price comparison websites must abide by. They must be independent, impartial and the information must be accurate. For more information visit the Ofgem website
You can also receive advice and information on switching your supplier from the Citizens Advice consumer service.
Energy tariffs and discounts
Your energy supplier can also offer a discount for having a dual fuel account (you get your gas and electricity from the same supplier) or managing your account online.
What should I ask before signing a contract?
Process of switching supplier
Will I be able to change my mind once I've agreed a contract?
Please see our 'What can I do if I have a complaint?' section of this leaflet for details of who you can complain to.
The energy supplier or its representative may fail to meet their obligations - you may have been subjected to high pressure selling, been misled over features of a particular service, given false information on potential savings, had your contract falsified or progressed without your consent. You may only become aware of this when you receive a 'welcome' letter or copy contract from a new supplier. You have the right to complain. Please see our 'what can I do if I have a complaint?' section of this leaflet for details of who you can complain to.
If you believe you have been transferred by mistake or without your consent, you can switch back. Ofgem introduced the Erroneous Transfer Customer Charter. It recommends best practice for suppliers including writing to a consumer to verify that they do want to switch before going ahead. In the event of an erroneous transfer, you can contact either the old supplier or the new one to complain. Within five working days, you should be given clear information on the steps which will be taken to resolve the matter and, if you request it, details of compensation arrangements. Within 20 working days, you should be informed that you are being returned to your old supplier.
Some suppliers have moved away from cold call doorstep selling as a method of persuading consumers to switch, as they recognise that consumers do not like being pressured on the doorstep.
What can I do if I have a complaint?
You can contact Ombudsman Services: Energy. This organisation is approved by Ofgem to deal with consumer complaints about energy bills, misselling, problems with energy supply, Green Deal and problems with switching supplier. The service is independent and free for consumers.
You can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for advice and guidance on switching supplier as well as seeking advice on a complaint.
Gas and electricity competition - consumer checklist
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text. Amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide.
For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.
Last reviewed/updated: September 2014