Record numbers switch electricity supplier amid wintry UK weather

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March 15, 2018

Record numbers switch electricity supplier amid wintry UK weather

About 660,000 households changed supplier in February with 1 in 5 avoiding big six suppliers

A record number of households switched their electricity provider in February as wintry weather gripped the UK, sending home energy bills soaring.

Trade body Energy UK said 660,000 people switched supplier last month, a new monthly record and 60% up on February 2017. The scale of switching means that so far this year the equivalent of everyone in a city the size of Birmingham has changed supplier, it said.

The surge in switching marks a turnaround from the marked apathy that has greeted past attempts to encourage households to move suppliers.

The switching figures are also likely to be a fresh blow for British Gas, which is the largest electricity supplier in the country, connecting nearly a quarter of all UK households.

Last month Centrica, which owns British Gas, said it was axing about 4,000 jobs,blaming intense competition and the government’s energy price cap.

The energy giant suffered a consumer backlash last year, when it raised electricity prices for millions of customers by an inflation-busting 12.7%. Over the last year its share price has fallen by about a third.

About one-fifth of customers switching suppliers are opting for a small or mid-tier provider rather than one of the big six, said Energy UK. It added that the bumper February figures follow on from a record 2017 where over 5.5 million – or one in six – electricity customers switched provider.

Shona Eyre of comparison site uSwitch.com said: “These figures are yet more evidence that the number of customers switching supplier is continuing to increase dramatically.

“Households are making huge savings while maintaining pressure on suppliers to offer competitive deals and improve their customer service – if they don’t, they face the very real risk that those customers will shop around and move elsewhere.”

Energy UK said British households are becoming more confident about changing suppliers because of the Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG), a voluntary industry commitment to ensure switching is simple, speedy and safe.

A Guardian investigation in February into the UK’s big six revealed that they are routinely charging customers almost exactly the same amount after switching them off controversial default tariffs.

In the case of market leader British Gas, the most expensive fixed deal, which many customers are being moved on to, is identical to its standard variable rate, at £1,099.84.

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