Belfast Telegraph

Why it makes sense to switch your supplier

Our home energy market is undergoing a major overhaul, with homes now having a choice of six suppliers for their electricity. Aodhan O’Donnell, the founder and owner of Power to Switch, reflects on how things have changed

The home energy market has come a long way over the last few years. Since other suppliers began to enter the market five years ago and compete for customers, there has been a steady, if not spectacular, growth in the deals and offers available.

The last few months have brought plenty of changes in terms of the local electricity market. Two new suppliers - Click Energy and Open Electric - have entered the market and Electric Ireland has relaunched to have a stronger local presence.

So for the 783,000 electricity customers there is more choice than ever before. There are now six suppliers to choose from and over 25 tariffs with a range of tariff rates, billing methods and payment options.

So has this made a difference?

In terms of deals there are savings to be made. Switching supplier can save up to 17% off their bill, which for a typical home is around £100 per year.

It is probably too early to assess the impact these new suppliers and deals are having on consumers. The big hope must be to see an increase in the number of people who are seeking out new deals and switching. To date this hasn't really happened as switching rates remain low - the latest quarterly report from the Utility Regulator states only 3% of people switch supplier.

So what could drive up switching levels? Firstly people will need to see savings they believe are worth switching for - since Power to Switch launched around two months ago, the average saving people have found using the site is £73. Secondly many people still believe the switching process is a hassle. In reality switching is straightforward with the new supplier taking care of the process and there are protections in place throughout the process.

So with greater savings available than ever before and increased awareness about switching, it's fair to assume more people will look again and move to better deals. And encouraging more people to switch is not just about helping them save money, important as this is. More consumers switching helps drive competition which means better deals will become available. It also ensures suppliers focus on improving customer service and standards which benefits everyone.

Over the next few months we will begin to see the impact this increased choice is having on consumers. There is more choice than ever so it's fair to say the market has moved in the right direction - it really is down now to whether consumers will also move. But the truth is if you have never switched electricity supplier or changed tariff, there is a good chance you're paying more than you need to for your home electricity.

Aodhann O'Donnell is the former interim chief executive of the Consumer Council. Power to Switch compares deals across all suppliers and provides information on payment options, tariff terms and customer reviews for each company. It's free, independent and impartial.

Why it makes sense to switch your supplier

Belfast Telegraph