Where’s my swift switch?

The process of moving customers between energy suppliers might take much longer than the estimated 21 days.

When winter starts officially, many customers start planning saving finances by changing energy suppliers. However, it’s not an easy process anymore, as you may wait up to 100 days.

According to the regulator of the industry, Ofgem, switching shouldn’t go longer than 21 days. However, if the process doesn’t go according to the plan, your savings may be considerably delayed.

Money sent an inquiry to the new company responsible for the switching process, Flipper, to find out which suppliers are the slowest to switch to or from another company.

Since July, Flipper processed over 1,500 switches.

It takes about 38 days to change any provider to Extra Energy – the company that offers some of the best deals on the market and is on the TOP list of energy buys. Switches to GnERGY typically took 35 days, and those to Avro Energy took 31 days.

In one extreme case, it took a customer 106 days to switch to Extra Energy.

To use Flipper, customers provide the London-based company with the login details for their online energy account and it scours the market to see whether switching can save them money. The cost is £25 a year and the company reviews your usage and rate to see if switching again can save you more money.

Reasons to miss the 21-day target
If they have never switched before, customers can cut £300 off their annual bill by changing provider, according to Ofgem.

The regulator said most switches are done efficiently and quickly. “While switching can occasionally take far longer than it should, the vast majority of consumers’ switches are processed within 21 days,” it said.

However, in Flipper’s experience, only half of the 10 energy suppliers it analysed typically completed switches in 21 days or quicker. Octopus Energy and Sainsbury’s Energy were among the fastest. Flipper’s overall average was 25 days.

Hilal Kanafani, co-founder of Flipper, said: “Switches can take longer due to issues such as outstanding debt, inconsistent data held by the providers or problems with meters. These are not always the fault of the suppliers and can sometimes be outside their control.

“This delay results in people being stuck on more expensive tariffs for longer, and can have such a negative effect on overall savings that we have started taking the switching time into account when finding the best deals for our members.”

Sometimes the existing provider can slow things down. Eon said: “We aim to switch customers in 17 days but this is subject to a number of actions, including the previous supplier ‘releasing’ the customer within industry timescales.”

Ben Wilson, energy spokesperson at the comparison site gocompare.com, said: “The length of time it can take suppliers to switch customers needs to be addressed. In many cases, suppliers expect customers to act as middlemen between their new and old providers, rather than the two companies dealing with each other directly.

“If suppliers co-operate better and share the information needed to help the customer transfer from one to the other, there’s no reason why the eventual goal shouldn’t be same-day switching.”

Why did one switch take 106 days?
Flipper said the 106-day delay was the result of an “erroneous transfer” that involved an attempt to switch the wrong property. Kanafani said: “This could have been the result of a mistake in the database that stores this information. Such data is held by independent companies, not energy suppliers.

“This is normally resolved directly between the two providers in question, with little to no involvement from the user, but it can cause a long delay.” The switch was — eventually — successful.

Most energy suppliers have signed up to the industry’s switching guarantee, which says switches should be processed within 21 days, although is not compulsory for suppliers to sign up to the guarantee.

Ben Jones, managing director at Extra Energy, said: “Our most recent return shows that more than 98% of domestic switches to Extra Energy take place within the 21-day period. This data is for all those who have ever switched to Extra Energy, rather than the small sample provided by Flipper.

“That said, we apologise unreservedly to any customers who have experienced a longer period of time to switch. One customer whose switch takes longer is a customer too many and we are working hard to make sure all switches are executed as quickly as possible.”

How to speed things up
To start a switch you need to have at hand your postcode, current supplier and details of your tariff and annual usage, all of which you can find on your bills.

Providing an accurate meter reading can speed up the process. Submit this as quickly as possible to your old supplier, who will use it to work out your final bill.

And don’t be afraid to be pushy. If your switch is dragging on, contact your new supplier to find out what the hold-up is.