When can I switch energy supplier without penalty?

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Switching your energy supplier could be a savvy way to save you hundreds of pounds. But there is no point in flipping if the penalty you have to pay to your existing supplier outweighs the savings you might make with another.

An early exit fee is the charge an energy supplier applies to your account if you leave your contract early. Most energy customers are on fixed energy plans which commit you to a certain amount of time with that supplier.

If you have a dual fuel contract (gas and electricity with the same supplier), you could be slapped with a fee of up to £60 for leaving early. Be aware.

If your supplier quotes you an exit fee per fuel, that means there’s a specific cost for gas and for electricity. Here’s hoping you don’t have both if the costs are separate and significant.

But it doesn’t have to be this way if you follow the rules to avoid energy exit fees. If you’re smart, you can save money by letting WeFlip automatically switch you to a cheaper deal and avoid cancellation fees.

How do you avoid energy exit fees?

If you are on a standard variable plan, then you can switch energy suppliers at any time without incurring an exit fee. Golden.

However, if you are on a fixed-term plan, you’re likely to be charged a fee to switch. Most homes join a supplier on a fixed-term plan as these often provide the best deals. That’s the catch-22.

Once your fixed-term plan expires, your supplier tends to move you onto their standard variable tariff – more expensive but comes with the added freedom to move for free. Now you see how this works – they’ll work on the assumption that people can’t be bothered to go through the kerfuffle of switching, and for every person who stays on the more expensive tariff, the energy companies make more money for themselves.

So if you plan to switch your energy plan at the end of your fixed-term plan, you’re in the clear, but you’re left stumped if you see a great energy deal elsewhere and want to switch beforehand.

Best time to switch supplier

This is where the 49-day window comes in. Industry watchdog Ofgem rules state that energy suppliers in the UK can’t hit their customers with an exit fee if the contract is within its final 49 days. This is usually the best time to switch supplier.

It’s not something made particularly obvious by suppliers (we wonder why…) and a lot of people aren’t aware, so do keep an eye on when your current contract is coming to an end if you’re on a fixed-term plan.

Current exit fees per supplier

As we’ve outlined, exit fees depend on the tariff you’re on, but also who supplies your energy. Here’s what some companies will charge you:

  • SSE fixed tariffs have a £25 per fuel (electricity and/or gas) exit fee if you want to leave before the end of the agreed period.
  • Most of E.ON‘s tariffs incur a £60 exit fee (£30 for electricity, £30 for gas) outside the 49-day window although some do offer no exit fees at all (the dream!).
  • British Gas usually charge an exit fee of £30 for electricity and £30 for gas if you switch to another energy supplier after the 14-day cooling-off period and before the 49-day window starts. If you switch to another tariff but stay with them, there are usually no fees to pay.
  • So Energy have early exit fees of only £5 per fuel – so that’s £10 if you end a dual fuel agreement early or £5 for ending a single fuel agreement early.

Do any suppliers not charge any exit fees?

Praise the heavens, there are now some energy suppliers who have just removed all trace of exit fees. These are usually smaller energy companies who offer contracts with no fees whatsoever to give them a competitive advantage over bigger suppliers. This is the world WeFlip want to live in.

Here’s a list of some smaller suppliers out there without exit fees (the prices are based on a medium usage property);

  • People’s Energy – Variable No Expiry – £71 a month – No exit fees
  • Pure Planet – Variable No Expiry – £72 a month – No exit fees
  • Solarplicity – Variable No expiry – £73 – No exit fees
  • Tonik – Fixed for 12 months – £75 – No exit fees

How to make a complaint against your energy supplier?

If you believe you’ve been unfairly charged or overcharged by your energy supplier when it comes to switching, this is what you can do:

  1. Before making a complaint to a higher authority you should contact your supplier – often things can be sorted with one phone call.
  2. If you can’t get it sorted with a call, follow up with a letter or email, including your account number and copies of any bills or other relevant paperwork. This will be useful anyway if you take the issue further.
  3. Should your energy supplier not solve your issue, the next step is to contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. They’ll outline your rights and offer guidance on what to do next.

Try out WeFlip now to start your auto-switching savings journey.

Exit fees stated are at the time of publishing, 11 July 2019 and are subject to change