The energy regulator Ofgem has backed calls from the industry to speed up how long it takes consumers to switch their energy supplier.
In statistics released as part of its Fix the Switch campaign, independent provider First Utility claims as much as £1.5 billion a year could be saved if people who are spending over the odds on their bills switched to cheaper tariffs.
And Ofgem, which released guidelines in August that said customers have to be told the fairest and cheapest deal available for gas and electricity in a clear and “jargon-free” way, has given its backing to the proposals.
“Ofgem is determined to speed up the switching process and we are working closely with suppliers to ensure that this happens”, said chief executive Andrew Wright.
“We welcome the fact that First Utility shares our goal and we want other suppliers to show the same ambition. Improvements have already been made to cut the time it takes to switch supplier to three weeks after any cooling off period, but ultimately the rollout of smart meters to homes and businesses will pave the way for a quicker switching process to be developed.”
A petition set up by First Utility calls on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to put in place 24-hour switching for energy customers. The process, it says, can currently take up to five weeks.
If 100,000 people add their name to the petition, the issue will be raised in parliament. The industry “will have to take note” if this milestone is reached, according to First Utility.
Such a move would mirror recent developments in the banking industry, which earlier this month saw the introduction of a new seven-day switching scheme.
A recent report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) said the majority of people in the UK want a “fair, affordable and sustainable energy system”, and the proposed accelerated switching period would go some way to realising this ambition.
Good Energy, a 100% renewable electricity supplier, is often credited with leading the way in terms of clean energy for consumers. Meanwhile, green energy firm Ecotricity recently unveiled its plans to undercut the electricity prices offered by the big six suppliers – Npower, British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, SSE and Southern Electric.
Five of these six – all but British Gas – dealt a blow to domestic carbon reduction efforts in the UK by pulling the plug on their renewable energy tariffs in July.