'Three days' to switch energy supplier

Energy bills
Image caption Energy companies say that the switching process is already simple

Customers will be able to switch energy supplier within three days by the end of the year after agreement between the regulator and suppliers.

Anyone who wants to switch must be given a two-week cooling-off period for the chance to change their mind, before the three-day process starts.

Next-day switching should be in place by the end of 2018 at the latest.

At present, the switching process can take five weeks, including the two-week cancellation period.

The process has been criticised as too complex. Among those who have criticised the system have been the Energy Ombudsman and consumer groups.

Shopping around

In April, Ofgem said that nearly two-thirds of UK consumers had never switched energy supplier. Yet, were they to do so, they could save about £200, the regulator said.

"Consumers can change their bank in seven days, their mobile phone in just a couple, but have to wait significantly longer to switch their energy supplier," said Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem.

"We know that consumers want a reliable and efficient switching process, and that concerns about it going wrong can put them off shopping around for a better deal.

"So following the steps we have taken to make the market simpler, clearer, fairer, we are now leading a programme which will deliver faster, more reliable switching."

A spokesman for Energy UK, which represents the major suppliers, claimed that it was already easy to move to a new provider.

"Just pop in your postcode, pop in your how much gas and electricity you use - which is on every bill, and Bob's your uncle. It is as simple as that," he said.

"Energy UK has been working for some time on speeding things up with the organisations that operate the gas and electricity switching hubs and it is great that Ofgem and others are all on board.

"This is a collaborative programme with lots of participants involved and there are now 24 suppliers of energy, so real choice and competition for the customer."

New computer systems and smart meters should allow the process to be cut to a day by the end of 2018.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said: "Faster, easier switching would be welcome news for consumers trying to find a better energy deal.

"Suppliers should introduce 24-hour switching as quickly as possible, under close scrutiny from Ofgem so that the cost to consumers of the new system does not spiral.

"It will also be essential that suppliers do more to introduce simple pricing, so consumers can easily see the best deal for them before they switch."

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