The secret of how to pick your new energy provider from a list of firms you’ve not heard of

Comparing energy tariffs is easy. Yet as I’ve learnt over the last year, it’s picking your new supplier from a list of unknown names that is putting many off. So I wanted to bash out a quick blog to show you how to navigate through that.

The majority of people in the UK are overspending on energy by 30%, often £300+ a year – simply due to being on the wrong tariff. If you’ve not switched in the last 12 months and are with one of the big six – British Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power or SSE – almost invariably that means you’re one of those people, as you’ll be on their very expensive standard tariff. If you’re with anyone else, you could still be overpaying too, so the right thing to do is check.

The easy way to check is using a comparison site. That’s necessary as who your cheapest is depends on where you live and how much you use. It’s best if you have your bills to hand to do this, but even if not, most comparison sites will estimate for you and the sin of inaccuracy isn’t as big as the sin of doing nothing. Yet many people find, or at least perceive, switching to be complex.

I’ve always found this difficult to understand, as when even newcomers to my Cheap Energy Club have tried it, the comparison process is completed in an average of around five minutes. And changing itself is no biggie – it’s the same pipes, gas, electricity and safety, and you don’t lose supply. The only difference is price and customer service.

However, when over the last year I’ve observed people switching at my TV roadshows, my eyes have been opened to the real problem. It’s not doing the comparison. It’s picking who to switch to that’s the real problem for many.

Too many small firms you’ve not heard of?

The huge encouragement given for new entrants to the energy market is actually putting many off switching. And to an extent, there’s good reason. The energy market is swamped with new firms, and often at launch they offer super-cheap deals to build a customer base. Yet the customer service feedback on these firms is either limited or worse poor, as they can’t handle the number of customers flooding in.

If you do a comparison right now, almost invariably the first five cheapest providers on the list are those you’ve never heard of – and for many that’s enough to put them off and stop the process.

The simple answer is SCROLL DOWN to a name you know, or one – small or big – which has a good customer service rating.

In fact, with so many new providers, you could scroll down a couple of pages of names and still only find it’s £10/yr or £20/yr more than the very cheapest, still saving you nearly £300/yr on typical usage. To make it easier use this good customer service only comparison energy club link, which automatically selects the service filter.

What if I just want a name I recognise though?

In that case, even though many of the big six have hideous tariffs, they can also offer some good ones too. At the time of writing, the cheapest big six deal for most people on average is a one-year fix with Eon, saving £230/yr compared to the average big six standard variable tariff. Yet always do a comparison, as the cheapest does depend on your situation. Again, to help use this big names only comparison energy club link, which automatically filters out smaller firms.

And remember most cheap tariffs are fixes, meaning you’re guaranteed no price rises for a set time.

What if I just don’t want to switch firm?

Many people ask me questions like: “I’m with Npower – is it cheap?” I can’t answer that, as what you pay depends on which of a firm’s tariffs you are on. Npower, for example, has one of the most expensive standard tariffs – for someone with typical usage it’s £1,161/yr – yet right now it also offers a relatively cheap fix at £969/yr.

In fact, EVERY big six provider has a cheaper deal than its standard tariff. So through gritted teeth, let me say: if you won’t switch as you’re loyal to your existing firm, at least ensure you’re on its cheapest tariff. Call them up and ask them. (Or better, use the what’s my current provider’s cheapest comparison energy club link, which filters out all other firms.  Though if it has tariffs under another name – eg Sainsbury’s Energy is really part of British Gas –  they’re included.)

What if I’m on a prepayment meter?

If you pay by a key or card meter, as many of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable do, then outrageously there’s nowhere near as much competition, and you pay more – though prices have been capped, which has helped a touch. If you do a prepay comparison there are often savings to be made, but often less than £100/yr.

If you can, try and switch to a billed meter. It’s free to do with one of the big six providers, and you’ll usually be credit-scored to check you’re capable of keeping up with payments.

Is comparing safe though? Isn’t it all about energy comparison sites making money?

Comparison sites, including my Cheap Energy Club, do get paid roughly £50 to £60 if they can switch you. Yet the price you pay is the same as if you switched direct with the energy firm. It comes from their marketing budgets, and if not paying a comparison site they tend to be paying advertisers.

In the case of Cheap Energy Club, we roughly split what we get paid with you (our share goes towards the pretty high costs and hopefully makes us a profit too). So on a dual fuel switch, if we can switch you we give you £25 cashback (£12.50 single fuel). That actually results in you getting a better deal than if you went direct to the energy firm (so we have a filter that enables you to factor this into the saving you make).

You have to be careful with some comparison sites as they are now allowed to only show you tariffs that pay them, which means you may not see the whole of the market. For the sake of transparency, Cheap Energy Club always defaults to the whole of the market – obviously if you click a link with a filter on as explained, then that cuts some providers, but not based on whether they pay or not.

7 months ago