Auto-switching services have exploded on to the energy market over recent years. There are at least six firms with wacky names and logos promising to use their high-tech algorithms to automatically find users a better deal and handle the transfer for them.
The new services undoubtedly save customers the time and hassle of searching the energy market every time their deal comes to an end.
But the savings and choice of deals can vary depending which service is used and which suppliers are available through the switching service.
Auto-switching: Do customers end up saving money and are they better than conventional comparison websites?
The businesses work in a similar way to comparison websites. So to get started, a user will need to enter details of their address, existing energy provider and energy usage.
The switching company will then calculate how much can potentially be saved each year. It will then switch supplier whenever it results in a saving.
All the services filter out suppliers who don’t meet certain sustainability requirements or have histories of poor customer service. They may also set preferences – for example, restricting choice to large suppliers only, fixed rates or green tariffs.
Some services are free, but restrict switches to a panel of commission-paying firms. Others scour the whole market but charge a fee.
Customers get the same rights as if they had made the switch themselves, so they can change their mind in the first 14 days. But, crucially, do they end up saving money and are they better than conventional comparison websites?
Last week, I put the auto-switching services to the test by comparing how much an average household in the Hertfordshire postcode of WD6 would potentially save if switching from British Gas’s standard dual fuel tariff. I assumed I was an average energy user – using 12,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of gas and 3,100 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
When the results come back, Switchd boasts the highest average savings among all the switching services at £408 a year. It offers a ‘free’ service where it will only recommend suppliers for electricity or dual fuel deals that pay it a commission to be part of its service. Alternatively, there is a whole of market service starting at £1.99 per month and going up to £4.99 if you want the support of a ‘dedicated’ agent.
Switchd boasts the highest average savings among all the switching services
Customers are switched on average every six to nine months when a minimum saving of £50 can be made, but users can alter this figure if they want to switch to make smaller savings.
Switchd will initially recommend one provider from its panel that excludes firms with poor customer service or switching issues.
Sadly, there was not a sniff of the £408 savings it originally boasted about but it told me I could save £337 by moving to Utility Point. Annoying to be originally misled but still a very good sum.
Potential saving: £337
It says users can save on average £316 a year by using its switching service. It will typically make a switch once a year if there are no exit fees to be paid. The free service offers a choice of three suppliers from a search of the whole market when you first sign up. It said I could save £291 annually by switching to Utility Point.
Potential saving: £291
Switchcraft service is free
Using a friendly light switch as a logo, Switchcraft promises customers average annual savings of £268. It will switch customers once a year if it can save £50 after exit fees. The service is free and first-time users are given a choice of providers and the savings on each.
I was told I could save £285 a year by switching to British Gas’s Energy and Boiler Cover Green November 2020 deal.
Potential saving: £285
Like rival Look After My Bills, it is owned by comparison website GoCompare but operates differently to its rival.
With an ad campaign featuring a chameleon and offering average savings of £280, WeFlip checks if a minimum £50 saving on top of any exit fees can be made throughout the year and will recommend one supplier to new users. It recommended moving me to the British Gas Energy and Boiler Cover Green November 2020 deal for a £284 annual saving.
Potential saving: £284
Look After My Bills
This company received record backing from Dragons’ Tej Lalvani and Jenny Campbell
This company received record backing from Tej Lalvani and Jenny Campbell on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den last year. It has since been sold to comparison website GoCompare in a deal worth up to £12.5million.
The free service only switches users if there are no exit fees involved. It said I could save £227 a year by switching to Green Together.
It provides updates by text or post if someone cannot get online regularly.
Potential saving: £227
It promises users average annual savings of £385 but you need to pay a membership fee of £30 a year – charged after you have made your first switch. Its service covers the whole of the energy market.
Flipper scans the market regularly, meaning you could be switched up to four times a year.
Flipper scans the market regularly, meaning you could be switched up to four times a year
Sadly, my promised saving was less than £385. Flipper said that it could get a deal that would be £225 cheaper over a year.
However it was not prepared to reveal who the provider was until I had signed up and entered my payment details.
It also said it would need to see a copy of a current utility bill to verify actual usage, which could alter the overall amount saved.
Once signed up it flips customers each time a saving of at least £50 a year can be made – after exit fees.
Potential saving: £225
… And using a comparison website
Using a comparison website may take more time and effort, but it is free and a user gets a wide choice of options.
Such websites highlight deals where they get a commission if they help a user to switch, but uSwitch and MoneySuperMarket also display tariffs that are not available through them.
A search on uSwitch showed I could save up to £336 a year by arranging my own switch to Utility Point. In other words, saving more in money than that available from five of the six auto-switchers.
Another option was to use the comparison service via cashback website Quidco.
It said we could save up to £290 by switching while receiving £40 of cashback.
Potential saving: £336
How much could you save on bills?
This is Money’s carefully chosen energy switching partner EnergyHelpline gives an unbiased look at all the energy deals in your postcode, so you can work out which is best for you.
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