Consumers could save €1,000 a year by shopping around

Study finds people failing to switch on to better deals in gas and electricity

Almost half of Irish consumers have never bothered comparing prices to see if they can get utilities such as gas and electricity for less by switching service providers, according to a new survey.

The National Consumer Agency study found supermarket shoppers are most likely to switch allegiances to save money but a "surprising" number of people are reluctant to switch despite the fact they could save more than €1,000 a year across a range of services.

Shopping habits

Some 37 per cent of consumers told the agency’s researchers they “tend to stick to the same companies” while just 27 per cent said they “change companies often and avail of better deals whenever they can”.

The survey into the switching behaviour of consumers found there was most movement in the grocery sector, with 26 per cent saying they have altered their shopping habits over the past 12 months. It also found 23 per cent said they had changed their car insurance provider to save money while just 16 per cent said they had changed to a different electricity and gas company.

Of those surveyed, 14 per cent claimed to have found better-value broadband by shopping around.

The agency looked at a range of services, including insurance, utilities, telecoms and groceries, and found the average monthly saving from making a switch was between €15 and €20 per sector with the potential savings being highest in health insurance where the average saving was €42 a month.

"More consumers are aware that shopping around and switching providers can save them money," said the agency's chief executive, Karen O'Leary. "However, there is still a large level of inertia among consumers with large numbers sticking with the same provider. This is surprising, given the pressures on people's income and the fact the majority of those who switched did save money."

Hassle

She said many people still viewed switching as a hassle and were not making fully informed decisions by checking competitors’ prices. She said a significant number of people who have not switched have never checked to see if a better deal was available with 48 per cent of those who had not switched gas provider saying they had never checked to see if a better deal was on offer.

“Switching may not be as difficult as you think,” Ms O’Leary said. “In recent years it has become a much simpler process in many sectors so it shouldn’t take long to see if you can get a better deal and switch if it’s worth your while. Staying with the same provider is not in itself a bad thing, providing you make the decision on an informed basis.”