26 September 2013
The Big Six energy companies should follow the lead of independent supplier First Utility by speeding up the process of switching suppliers, according to Energy Advice Line.
Julian Morgan, managing director of the price comparison, switching and advice service for energy consumers, said the energy sector needed to follow the lead of the banking and telecoms industries to make switching simpler and quicker.
The comments follow a call by independent supplier First Utility for suppliers to slash the time it takes for customers to switch suppliers from 5 weeks to 1 day.
A survey by First Utility found that 35% of consumers would be more likely to switch if the process was quicker, while 93% agreed it should be speeded up so they could get a better deal on their energy.
"It's very clear that many consumers are put off switching energy suppliers because they think the process is too long and protracted and will go wrong," Mr Morgan said.
"Unfortunately, this means that the vast majority of consumers don't bother changing suppliers regularly and in the process miss out on average savings of £158 per year on their gas and electricity bills.
"There is no good reason why it should take 5 weeks or more for utility companies to effect a switch. Much of that time is simply slow administration on the part of the suppliers. First Utility has acknowledges it can do it more quickly, and other energy companies should do the same."
The First Utility research found that speed and complexity of changing was the main factor that puts people off switching. The company has pointed out that it takes 1 week to change bank accounts.
"The process of moving customers from one energy supplier to another is actually very straightforward," Mr Morgan said.
"There is no need for a home visit and there is no change to the gas or electricity supply, so it should be able to be done relatively quickly.
"We think the initiative by First Utility to drive this change is fantastic news for customers who need to switch to save money, but find too many obstacles in their way.
"As long as OFGEM, the energy regulator, can ensure that customers will still enjoy their 14-day cooling off period within a quicker and simpler switching system, this is very good news indeed."
First Utility has launched a Fix the Switch campaign, which aims to put pressure on the industry, OFGEM and the Government to make a commitment to simplifying the switching process to make it faster, more accurate and more efficient.
It is also encouraging consumers and MPs to sign an online petition in support of one-day switching to force the industry to make the change.
The Energy Advice Line is the UK's leading price comparison, switching and advice serve for businesses and household energy customers. It actively campaigns for reform of the UK's energy market to deliver fairer deals and cheaper prices from the major suppliers.
It also offers a free and independent price comparison and switching service that enables consumers to shop the market for the cheapest energy deals with the click of a mouse.
For further information visit www.energyadviceline.org.uk