Gas and electricity customers not switching are losing cash

Failing to change supplier over last four years has cost consumers almost €1,700

While the report describes switching rate as ‘robust’ only 14% of electricity customers and 20% of gas customers switched supplier last year. File photograph: Getty

While the report describes switching rate as ‘robust’ only 14% of electricity customers and 20% of gas customers switched supplier last year. File photograph: Getty

 

Consumers who failed to switch gas or electricity suppliers over the last four years have paid almost €1,700 more in utility bills than if they had, according to the independent energy regulator.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) annual report also suggests that about a quarter of customers either switched providers or negotiated better deals with the existing provider in 2018, which suggests that hundreds of thousands of consumers continue to miss out on potential savings.

According to the data, active customers who switched or renegotiated every year for the last four years could have saved €704 on gas, €1,097 on electricity or €1,696 on their dual fuel costs.

While the report describes the switching rate as “robust”, only 14 per cent of electricity customers and 20 per cent of gas customers actually switched supplier last year.

The figures represent an eight-year high in gas switching rates and a seven-year high in the switching rate for electricity. And when customers who sought and received better deals from their existing providers were factored in, 24 per cent of electricity customers and 29 per cent of gas customers paid rates lower than the standard tariff last year.

The regulator said the relatively higher rates of switching could be attributed to its implementation of new consumer protection measures.

These include an annual prompt where suppliers must tell customers who have been on the same tariff for three years or more of other energy offers that may be available to them.

In addition, suppliers are now required to give customers 30 days’ notice prior to the end of the customer’s fixed-term contract.

They must also provide an estimated annual bill in their marketing and advertising to provide customers with an easy to understand, transparent metric by which they can compare offers from different suppliers and therefore make the decision to move to a more advantageous supplier offering.

The potential savings that have been on the table for consumers who are active in the switching market would have easily offset price increases rolled out by most suppliers over the last year.

Seven suppliers announced energy price increases in 2018, blaming higher wholesale costs. The average increase was 5 per cent for electricity and 13 per cent for gas for a standard pricing plan.

The annual Electricity and Gas Retail Market Report is part of the regulator’s market monitoring role to help ensure that the customer benefits from a competitive energy market. It also provides insights into consumer and supplier behaviour.

“The CRU aims to facilitate empowered and protected consumers, paying reasonable prices,” said Aoife MacEvilly, the commissioner with responsibility for the retail markets. “We are pleased to see that some of our regulatory measures appear to be helping customers be more active.”

Are there really savings to be made by switching utilities?

There are. If you have not changed your energy supplier in the past couple of years, you are wasting money.

How much are we talking about?

With just a few minutes research and another few minutes making calls to providers and then making the switch customers can expect to save more than €400 a year.

Is switching complicated?

No. Unlike changing your mortgage, health insurance, phone or or broadband supplier the process is very easy and can be done over the telephone in less than 10 minutes. There are also ways to switch online with having to talk to anyone. And unlike switching breakfast cereals or changing broadband provider – the end product is going to be identical.

Where do I start?

You need copies of your most recent gas or electricity bill, or both if you’re a dual fuel customer. You also need your Gas Point Reference Number (GPRN) or Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), so energy suppliers can identify your property.

Where would I find these numbers?

The numbers are on your bills and will be easy to find. If you can’t find a bill just call your provider and they will give them to you. Finally, you need a current gas and/or electricity meter reading, so your old supplier can provide you with a final bill and your new supplier can start from that point.

And who should I call?

The first and easiest thing to do is call your existing provider and tell them you are taking your business elsewhere unless they give you a better deal. And by better deal you should expect to be offered a discount of between 10 and 20 per cent on what you are paying. If they refuse simply go elsewhere. All companies offer substantial discounts to new customers.

Which ones are the best value?

It depends. The price comparison sites bonkers.ieand switcher.ieare helpful in this regard and will point customers in the directions of the best savings for them based on their individual needs.