During the past few years, the UK domestic energy market has been noteworthy for a series of hefty price spikes, where the major providers all raise prices within a relatively short period. This has happened several times, leaving customers facing bills up top 50% higher than just a few years ago.
However, while the overall trend is for much higher prices, customers have also become much savvier about choosing and switching suppliers, with a wealth of solid consumer advice available to help people pick the best deal for their circumstances and region. The domestic customer is also much more prone to making changes to their supplier – often all it takes is a phone call or using a comparison website to pick a deal and then arranging the new supplier online. This article looks at 5 tips to help the consumer choose the best time to move provider.
1. A level playing field
When one provider puts its prices up, the rest may soon follow suit. If your supplier raises its tariffs don’t be tempted to ditch immediately – make sure you aren’t moving to a cheaper deal which will subsequently go up too. Keep an eye on consumer sites and once all the suppliers have fixed their rates, look for the best deal at that point.
2. Check for exit penalties
Make sure you check your contract with your existing supplier before you move – some may well have an exit penalty. In some cases this will offset any potential gains, and so it can pay to wait until the tie-in period expires. However, if the saving you can make is greater than the amount you have to pay to move supplier, then it’s better to switch!
3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
These days, many people assume that you need to have both gas and electricity from the same provider, but this is of course not true. Make sure that if you research to get the best electricity prices, you also get information on gas suppliers.
Do your research and shop around!
4. Look for long term deals
Many suppliers offer long term tie-in periods for certain tariffs, in the same manner as a mortgage provider. These are generally offered with the promise of providing you with peace of mind against any future energy price rises. If you plan your budget to the pound and want to fix your outgoings then this sort of deal is well worth considering – it will provide you with a guarantee of your energy tariff for the period in question and you won’t be suddenly hit with a big price rise in the near future. However, if you believe the market could become cheaper in the short term, then avoid deals like this which often come with significant exit penalties.
5. Look for incentives
Internet sites increasingly offer incentives for taking new products – these can take the form of “cashback” websites such as Quidco or Greasy Palm which will allow you to purchase a retailer’s product and then receive money back at a later date. Some providers, including energy suppliers, also offer this sort of incentive directly. Again, weigh up whether the cash benefit is worth it. Some comparison websites also pay you for using their services, and can track deals in your area to provide the best tariffs.
When looking at a new energy supplier, it’s advisable to research the market properly, check out the various tariffs on offer, use comparison services, and make sure you don’t tie yourself in to a deal which may only offer short term benefit. After all, the likelihood is that an energy tariff will cost you upwards of £1,000 per annum and so it’s worth taking time to choose the right supplier.
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