The number of people switching their energy suppliers in order to save money has reached the highest level for five years.
According to new figures published by Ofgem, the regulator for British energy industries, over 5.1 million customers went off to a different gas or electricity supplier in 2007 in search of cheaper deals.
"The number of customers switching supplier is increasing and five million account switches alone in 2007 shows that suppliers who don't offer competitive prices and good service will lose customers." Ofgem CEO Alistair Buchanan commented on the figures.
All major gas and electricity providers
have hiked their prices by a whopping 15 per cent in 2008. However, customers will still be able to save an average £92 if they switch energy providers
and pay on receipt of the bill. They can save even more if they choose an online plan or pay by direct debit.
Never has there been a better time to switch than now: as suppliers lose their customers to competitors they continually have to come up with tariffs which best suit their customers' needs, including fixed-price offers, online account deals or 'green' tariffs.
Although at first glance Ofgem's figures seem encouraging, there is a downside to them: "It's not a case of more people changing their tariffs, but merely the same people changing more frequently." Paul Schofield from moneysupermarket.com points out.
And Tom Wolfenden from uSwitch says: "The biggest concern is that those who could benefit most from switching are the ones who are missing out – our research shows that over two thirds (69%) of the over 60s have never switched."
"Perhaps more thought needs to be given to how the market communicates with consumers, especially the vulnerable." Mr Wolfenden continued. "There are some great energy deals out there, but many potential switchers may be put off because these deals are labelled 'online'".
The good news for consumers such as pensioners, the unemployed or those on low incomes is that Ofgem is already a step ahead; in conjunction with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Ofgem has just launched the 'Energy Best Deal' campaign to raise awareness and help customers switch to cheaper deals available on the market.