✔ The Energy Switch Guarantee makes changing suppliers easier
✔ A record 6.4 million people switched to a different energy provider in 2019
✔ ESG signatories supply 82% of electricity and 81% of gas in the UK
Changing your energy supplier can save you hundreds of pounds, depending on your situation, but the actual process is stressful and overwhelming – right?
Not anymore. A record 6.4 million people switched to a different energy supplier in 2019, according to a report from Energy UK – largely because of the Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG).
In a complicated industry where it’s far too easy to pay more than you need to, the ESG is great news for consumers.
Let’s see how it works, and how effective it’s been at making life better for you.
If you’re already convinced – which would be fair enough – just fill in a quick form on energy switching site Switchd, and start saving money.
What’s on this page?
What is the Energy Switch Guarantee?
The Energy Switch Guarantee is a pledge created by trade association Energy UK, which is voluntarily entered into by energy companies.
It’s designed to make changing suppliers as easy, smooth, and stress-free as possible for customers, with no delays or surprise fees.
Your new provider must take responsibility for the switch, and work with your old supplier to make sure it goes through within 21 days, without a hitch.
Energy UK launched the ESG on June 7th 2016, having convinced eight suppliers to sign up.
The initiative has grown in number since then, with 15 companies now part of the pledge:
- British Gas
- EDF Energy
- ESB Energy
- Green Network Energy
- Igloo Energy
- Octopus Energy
- Pure Planet
- Shell Energy
- So Energy
- Yorkshire Energy
All of these firms have agreed to keep the 10 commitments of the ESG, which you can see below.
The 10 Commitments of the ESG
1. All energy providers use the same wires and pipes, meaning your energy supply will not be interrupted
2. The switching service is free
3. The switch will take no more than 21 days from the date your new provider receives your completed application
4. Your new provider will not need to visit your home to complete the switch unless you agree otherwise
5. Your new provider will arrange the switch, including contacting your current provider to let them know you are leaving
6. Your new provider will send you details of your new energy supply agreement for you to check, and you will have 14 days to change your mind. If you cancel in this time, you’ll stay with your current provider
7. Your new and current providers will work together to make sure you are not charged twice for the same energy
8. If there are any problems making the switch, your new provider will contact you as soon as possible, and will be responsible for putting the matter right
9. Following the switch, your current provider will send you a final bill no later than six weeks after the switch
10. If your current provider owes you any money, they will refund this to you no later than 14 days after sending you the final bill
How does it work?
Companies that have signed up to the ESG must abide by these 10 commitments, which allows consumers to have a better experience when switching their energy supplier.
UK Energy measures how well these providers comply with the rules. There’s a margin for error, but if companies don’t meet the benchmarks laid out in the ESG, they’ll be sanctioned.
For instance, UK Energy expects companies to complete at least 98% of switches in 21 days or less.
If a supplier falls short of keeping these commitments enough times, they can be suspended or thrown out of the ESG, which could severely damage the company’s reputation.
But apart from this potential punishment, the ESG works because suppliers take it seriously, and make an effort to keep their commitments.
Why do they take it seriously? Perhaps because they worry that non-compliance would result in stricter, compulsory oversight with harsher penalties.
Why was it launched?
The ESG was launched to ensure that customers could switch providers without any problems or delays – and to improve energy companies’ reputations.
When the scheme began, ESG chair Tina Tietjen explained: “The guarantee is a major commitment by suppliers – from the largest to some of the newest suppliers in the market – and it aims to reassure consumers who may have reservations about switching.
“It also means that, on the very rare occasion anything goes wrong, customers will have the assurance they need that the issue will be resolved by their supplier.”
What does it mean for you?
It means that it’s easier for you to switch energy suppliers, potentially saving you and your household as much as £300 per year.
The 10 commitments lay out your rights, how long each part is supposed to take, and who’s in charge of making them happen.
So you can rest easy and let the switch go through, safe in the knowledge that there will be consequences for any company that fails to meet these requirements.
Is the Energy Switch Guarantee effective?
Yes. As well as allowing a record 6.4 million people to switch suppliers in 2019, the ESG maintains excellent levels of compliance.
For instance, the 10 commitments state that a switch should take 21 days or less.
In the first three months of 2020, the 15 energy companies which have signed up to the ESG managed to ensure this in 99.2% of cases, according to Energy UK.
They also sent final bills within six weeks 94.7% of the time, and processed refunds no later than 14 days after that final bill in 96.3% of instances.
This shows how seriously the signatories take these three key performance indicators, and shows how the ESG compels companies to meet high standards.
But of course, a regulatory body can only do so much.
British Gas failed to ensure 98% of its consumers switched within 21 days for three successive quarters between 2018 and 2019, which led the ESG to order a one-year deferred suspension until October 2020.
This carried the threat of immediate suspension if British Gas fell short again – and it seems to have worked.
Over the first quarter of 2020, the energy giant scored 99%, 98.1%, and 99.5% in the three main categories.
And in even better news, most energy suppliers don’t require the looming threat of punishment to keep the 10 commitments – just the idea of potentially harsher oversight if the ESG fails.
How is the Energy Switch Guarantee better than the regular non-guaranteed switching process?
When it comes to a messy, unfamiliar process like switching energy suppliers, you want rules and standards to be carved in stone.
Otherwise, you’ll be confused at best – unsure when the switch will happen, when you’ll receive the final bill, and whose responsibility it is if anything goes wrong.
At worst, you could be exploited by mendacious companies who may try to change your wiring (and charge you for the privilege), ask for switching fees, and take an age to complete the move.
This way, you know what will happen, who’s in charge of which part, and your rights throughout the whole affair.
The ESG commitments also give energy suppliers nowhere to hide – they look unscrupulous for not signing up, and when they do, they must keep their standards at the required level.
Does the Energy Switch Guarantee cost anything?
No. The ESG doesn’t cost anything, and neither does switching energy suppliers.
The ESG’s second commitment states that “the switching service is free” – so that’s pretty clear.
Have all energy suppliers signed up to the ESG?
So glad you asked! No, they haven’t.
There are 58 domestic energy suppliers, according to Ofgem’s latest report.
Only 15 have signed up to the ESG. However, this number does include the Big Six of British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, npower, ScottishPower, and SSE.
These six companies cover 69.6% of the domestic electricity market, according to Ofgem.
If you add Bulb, Octopus Energy, and Shell Energy’s coverage (12.3% combined) to that figure, ESG signatories supply domestic electricity to 81.9% of the UK.
The numbers are similar when it comes to domestic gas, with the Big Six covering 69.2% of the market, and ESG companies supplying a combined 81.3% of customers.
So while the ESG doesn’t oversee all energy providers, it does police the great majority of them.
You could save hundreds of pounds by switching energy suppliers – but you can also be messed around, made to pay unnecessary fees, and have your life uprooted for weeks while it happens.
Or at least, that was the situation before the Energy Switch Guarantee.
Since 2016, consumers like you have been able to switch for free with any ESG signatory, knowing that all the stressful parts will be handled by your new supplier, and that it’ll all be done within 21 days.
So if you’re looking to switch, go right ahead and see how much you could save – you’ve got nothing to fear.
By using Switchd, you could save £108 per year on the free plan, or more than £400 per year on the paid plan.