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Comparing and Switching

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Utility Utilities Charge Consumer

One of the benefits to the consumer of all the upheaval in the utilities market is that customers can now choose to switch between different suppliers. This might be done because of cost, or, increasingly these days, to choose a supplier that is more eco-friendly or more ethical.

But when is the right time to switch, and how do you decided who to switch to? Coupled with that the utilities are getting wiser to switching and offering enticing deals attached to longer commitments to lock customers in. they also come up with different deals, offers and bundled plans (where a number of services might be offered together, like discounts for taking both gas and electricity from one supplier) which help to confuse the situation.

General Guide to Comparison

This article is an overview to the switching situation and talks about comparing and switching in general, and what you can do to keep getting the best deal for yourself and your family. Specific details about the various elements of each utility and how they're charged can be found in the specific articles in this section.

There's no getting away from the fact that you will have to do some work, however. You need to analyse your usage, and predicted usage, of whichever utility you are thinking of switching. This means looking at old bills and writing down when you use the service and how often, so that you can then look at the prices for other suppliers and calculate how much you would be charged if you switched.

This can be easier if you can use a spreadsheet program to store details of your usage then tap in the prices for a new supplier, and then see what the new charge is. But there is an easier way.

Using Comparison Web Sites

For many of the utilities that we use on a daily basis there are websites available that can help you with the switch. Just type in 'electricity price comparison', for example into a search engine and a number of sites will pop up. These will have calculators where you can put in the details of the service you use and how much you use it, and they will return the cheapest and most appropriate suppliers for you.

It's probably a good idea to try a number of these comparison sites, as they make money by being paid, by the utility companies, for every customer that signs up through the comparison site. So some sites that are getting paid more by one supplier may promote that supplier above others that are comparable in price. This isn't to suggest that they will push a supplier regardless of whether r they are the cheapest or not, its just that if suppliers are equal in all other respects, they are likely to put the site that pays them more in front of another.

Don’t be Too Quick to Switch

The other thing to bear in mind is not to switch too quickly. If one supplier announces a new tariff that s lower than your current one, then it is quite possible, particularly with energy utilities, that the others will follow suit over the next month or so, so it's worth keeping an eye out. It's not worth switching if your current provider is likely to offer a similar tariff, and if they announce a new tariff for new customers only, then it's worth ringing up to see if they will give you that new tariff.

If they don't then make it clear that you'll be switching away unless they can offer you that deal, and you may be surprised at what you can get.

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