Energy switching: one in four consumers have problems when trying to switch their supplier

4 min read
March 05, 2021

One in four consumers who have switched their energy supplier in the past two years had encountered problems when they made the move, Resolver research shows.

Our survey of more than 1,200 consumers revealed problems concerning blocked switches, meter reading discrepancies and demands for payment long after the switch had been completed. 

Resolver also found that 80% consumers were unaware of compensation rules introduced last year to help ensure that energy switching is a smooth process.

Rules introduced by Ofgem last May meant that if a customer’s energy switch is not completed within 15 working days, they are entitled to receive £30 compensation from their new supplier, yet the majority of respondents in Resolver’s survey of 1,200 consumers told us they were not aware of this.

Our survey found that:

  • Just over a third of consumers (36%) had not switched energy supplier in the past two years
  • For those that had (64%) – the main reasons for doing so were to save money and because they were unhappy with their current supplier
  • Three in 10 said they are considering switching their energy supplier in the future
  • Some (6%) told us they didn’t understand the process behind switching energy suppliers, with 5% saying they were afraid of being cut off from their energy supply if they chose to switch.

Switching issues

While many respondents reported no issues with their switch, 25% told us they had experienced problems (one in 10 of these said they had a lot of issues). 

We asked for details on the problems they had faced through the switching process. Among the most common reported to us were switches being blocked by the ‘previous’ supplier – with some cases of respondents being switched back without their permissions and discrepancies with meter readings causing problems.

But a number of respondents said they were receiving demands for payment or bills from their previous supplier outside of a ‘final bill’ – sometimes long after their switch had been completed. On the flip side we also had respondents telling us that they had struggled to get refunds or credit balances they were due – with some saying this had taken a year or more.

A handful even told us that administration errors meant their neighbours had been switched by mistake, while some were unimpressed with poor customer service or a lack of contact from their new supplier. 

See Resolver CEO Alex Neill’s thoughts on our survey findings

The survey findings follow news released from Ofgem last week that 18 suppliers were not compliant with price protection rules (that mean a customer’s tariff price is protected even if they choose to switch after an increase) between 2013 and 2020.

Ofgem reported that more than one million consumers were overcharged to the tune of £7.2 million in that period, costing suppliers £10.4 million in refunds and goodwill payments. 

What makes consumers switch? 

Saving money was the top reason for switching suppliers – with 82% of our surveyed consumers highlighting this. However, many (25%) said that they had switched because they were unhappy with their current supplier.

But while saving money was the top reason that our respondents gave for potentially making a switch in the future, 40% said they would do so if they saw their bills creeping up, while one third (36%) told us they would be motivated to switch if their current supplier offered poor customer service.

Meanwhile, those surveyed had broadly positive views on the potential of auto-switching (where you sign up to a service that will automatically switch you based on the specific criteria you set, including price). One in five had used an auto-switching service at least once, while almost half (47%) told us they would consider switching energy supplier in this way in the future.

Of those that had used an auto-switching service, two-thirds reported their experience as being good or excellent, with only 6% saying it was ‘terrible’.

Energy switching complaints

Our respondents are not alone. Of the 51,000 complaints made to energy companies through Resolver in the past two years, one in 10 concerned contract disputes, transfer issues and credit problems related directly to switching energy suppliers.

Among them were chases for credit balances to be returned – long after the mandated 10 days to get this back once our users had received their final bills – and switches that were in some cases taking up to four months.

Complaints also highlighted blocked switches – in some cases with no reason given, and perhaps more worryingly switches that were taking place without the consumer’s permission.

Under rules set out by Ofgem, consumers who have experienced problems switching are entitled to compensation:

If the switch is not complete within fifteen working days, you can claim £30 from your new supplier;
If you do not receive your final bill within six weeks of switching, you can claim £30 from your previous supplier;

If you do not receive the credit balance (if you are due one) within 10 days of a final bill being issued you can claim £30 from your previous supplier;

If you are switched by mistake or have had errors in your switch, you can claim £30 from the supplier in question.

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