It’s confession time. For more than 10 years I have been advising people to save money by changing their gas and electricity supplier. It’s quick, I wrote, easy, I said, and if you’ve never done it before, I added, savings are guaranteed. Which is a rare thing in personal finance.
But, and my soul is feeling better already, despite writing and broadcasting this advice for more than 10 years I confess – oh how I confess – I have never done it myself!
Hey, financial journalists are subject to inertia just like the rest of you!
But now I have. And wow! It IS quick. It IS easy. And I will save – wait for it – £257 a year! If I’d only done it 10 years ago!
So what got me off my backside this week? I discovered that the rules about switching have been quietly changed by the energy regulator Ofgem. And it’s bad news for customers. In the past, once you switched you could switch again after just 28 days with your new supplier. That meant they could not tempt you in with a great rate and then slam up their prices three months later and fine you £100 if you tried to leave.
But this rule has now gone. Consumer groups opposed the change, but Ofgem went ahead and scrapped it although only three energy companies actively supported it: Centrica, E.ON, and Scottish and Southern Energy. ScottishPower strongly opposed the change because it “will have potentially negative implications for competition”.
By a happy coincidence, ScottishPower’s dual fuel tariff came out as the cheapest for me to switch to. So after checking that dual fuel was better than switching to different suppliers for my electricity and gas (it sometimes is) I clicked the button. Soon I will be paying ScottishPower for my energy.
There are 12 energy switching sites. Here are three – sim plyswitch.com, uswitch.com and theenergyshop.com. Log on today. It helps to have your last four bills handy.
Paul Lewis is a freelance writer who presents Money Box on BBC Radio 4