Why is this important?
Choosing a gas or electricity supplier
If you're thinking about changing to another energy supplier, bear in mind that prices, policies and services will vary. You can choose different companies to supply your gas and electricity, or one company to supply both (dual fuel).
To make sure you choose the best deal for your needs get information and contracts from different suppliers and compare them with your current supplier. Energy companies should provide information for free.
This page tells you key things to think about when choosing a gas or electricity supplier for your home.
What should you ask before you enter into a contract?
Your energy contract is a legally binding document. It’s important that you understand what you are agreeing to when you enter into a contract. An energy contract can be agreed over the telephone, online or signed face-to-face with a sales adviser. Your new supplier must provide you with written confirmation of your energy contract.
You should ask a potential supplier for information about:
- unit prices of gas and electricity
- standing charges
- the terms and conditions of the tariff
- length of contract (if fixed term)
- cancellation charges – for example if you want to end your contract early.
If something is not in your contract, it is not part of the tariff. Make sure the contract includes everything you have agreed to. Take time to consider the whole document. Your supplier will give you 14 days to change your mind about the contract after you have agreed it. This is called the cooling off period.
How much does the supplier charge?
To ensure you get the best deal, shop around and compare the prices on offer by different suppliers. All suppliers are required to publish their prices and they'll send you details if you ask.
To compare prices from other suppliers with the price from your current supplier, you will need to calculate how much you are currently paying for your fuel each year. You can work this out by looking at your last four quarterly bills.
Is there a penalty if you cancel the contract?
Check the details of the contract before you switch to make sure it meets your needs. Make sure you're clear about how much you'll be paying and how easily you can cancel the agreement. If it's a fixed or capped price contract, you may be charged if you want to cancel it before it expires.
Is there a standing charge?
The standing charge is a fixed amount you have to pay for each day you are connected to a gas or electricity network, regardless of what you use. Generally, a contract without a standing charge will have higher unit prices for the gas and electricity you use. A contract with a standing charge is likely to have slightly lower prices for the gas and electricity you use.
What are the payment options?
Check how you can make payments. Options usually include:
- quarterly bills – you pay for the amount you've used during the previous three months. You can pay by cheque, online or at a Post Office or other bill payment point
- monthly direct debit - you pay the same amount each month. This can help your budgeting from month to month
- prepayment meters - you have to top up the meter before using your energy. This can help with budgeting but it's also usually the most expensive way to pay for gas and electricity.
- More information about different ways of paying for gas and electricity
Are there incentives or discounts?
You might be able to save money if you take a dual fuel contract. Other types of discount are also available, including internet tariffs and green tariffs.
What other service standards does the supplier have?
Some companies offer discounted repair and maintenance services for energy customers, or extra help for older or disabled customers.
How well does the company handle complaints?
Find out how many customers complain about their service and how quickly these complaints are resolved.
- Consumer Focus (Consumer Futures from May 2013) has a regularly updated league table of energy companies’ complaint handling performance at www.consumerfocus.org.uk.
What are the company’s policies on debt and disconnection?
Find out how they would treat you if you fell behind on your payments.
How do you find out the fuel mix of your electricity supply?
The fuel mix is the percentage of electricity generated from coal, gas, nuclear, renewable and other sources. Details are also provided on the amount of CO2 and nuclear waste produced. All suppliers have to give this information to their customers once a year and it is also available on their websites.
- A guide on how to go about switching your energy supplier
- Top tips for a successful switch
- How to get a gas or electricity connection
- If you need more help
- More help on what to do about your energy supply and bills when moving house
- Hints and tips to keep your energy bills down
- Tenants’ energy rights explained, a factsheet from Ofgem, at www.ofgem.gov.uk