About switching gas & electricity suppliers

Unravelit was the first price comparison service to be officially accredited by Energywatch (now Consumer Focus), the UK's gas and electricity watchdog. This means that our service meets strict standards in relation to the quality, accuracy and comprehensive of our data and the impartiality of our service. We provide you with the widest coverage of gas and electricity products and tariffs in the market.

Barriers to switching energy suppliers - what is holding us back?

It is now over ten years since the deregulation of the UK energy market began. Millions of households have saved billions of pounds by switching their gas and electricity providers. Introducing competition and enabling consumers to find a better deal is at the core of deregulation and it showed in March 2006 when almost one million people switched providers - the largest number ever for a single month.

Energy regulator Energywatch (now Consumer Focus) has placed heavy emphasis on creating consumer choice, and this message seems to have gotten across to the majority of UK consumers. However, there are still nine million households that have never switched and it is these households that currently stand to save the most. According to Energywatch (now Consumer Focus) , there is over £1 billion available per year in unclaimed savings, and the largest savings are usually made by those that have never switched energy providers before.

In July 2006, Unravelit.com carried out an online survey of 6,300 people to find out why so many people continued to stay with their existing providers despite the savings available. The findings were very much in line with Energywatch's (now Consumer Focus) research. 37% stated that they had never switched energy providers and 20% said that they would not consider switching in the future. When asked for the single biggest reason for not switching, an overwhelming 56% said they were happy with their current supplier. The remainder listed the reasons below:

Happy with current service - 56%

Savings too low - 8%

Too complicated to attempt - 6%

Afraid of getting locked into a contract - 5%

Mistrust of other suppliers - 5%

Don't know how to go about it - 2%

Other reasons - 18%

Consumer awareness:

As a percentage of total responses, 15% stated that they were happy with their current service or that the savings were too low to switch. This suggests that a hard core of consumers are not receptive to Energywatch (now Consumer Focus)'s message, and that significant work needs to be done to further publicise the advantages of deregulation. The regulator currently estimates that individual savings from switching are as high as £110 per year, a significant amount of money that few households would choose to forego.

A complicated process:

Although it may have been relatively complicated to switch energy suppliers in the past, online comparison companies like Unravelit.com have made the process fast, easy and seamless. All that is now required for a quick comparison of suppliers is a post code, and an understanding of current expenditure for gas and electricity. If a consumer decides to go ahead with a switch, the process is handled by Unravelit.com and the new supplier - at no cost to the consumer.

Contracts:

Most domestic energy supply contracts are now 'rolling evergreen contracts', meaning they continue until cancelled on 28 days notice. Some energy companies will offer rewards and rebates to households that remain customers for a fixed period of time, but unlike mobile phone companies, they will not penalise consumers for switching.

Mistrust:

Mistrust of suppliers has its roots in the 'slamming' practices of doorstep salesmen. In the early days of deregulation, some households found that their supplier had been switched without their explicit consent, on the basis of false information or without their knowledge. Since then, Ofgem, the Office of Fair Trade and Energywatch (now Consumer Focus) have all taken action against such practices and have established a robust complaints framework. It can be difficult to regain consumers' trust, but UK energy customers are now better protected than they have ever been before.

Online specialists like Unravelit.com offer consumers the opportunity to review the prices and tariffs of all energy companies in their own time and without the pressure of a salesman on their doorstep. This allows the consumer the freedom to choose between energy suppliers and select the best deal for their needs.