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Surge in number of energy customers switching supplier

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Energy switching hit a six-year high last year as more households shopped around for a better deal.

Some 7.7 million gas or electricity switches took place in 2016, according to data from Ofgem – 1.7 million more switches than the previous year.  Of these switches, nearly half (47%) were to small or medium suppliers.

Customers saved on average £230 year by moving provider, the regulator said.

Despite rising switching rates, however, around two-thirds of customers remain on standard variable tariffs. These tend to be more expensive than fixed deals.

In recent weeks, several suppliers including First Utility and Co-op Energy, have announced price rises for customers on standard variable tariffs.

Ofgem’s CEO Dermot Nolan said  “This welcome increase in switching should serve as a warning to supply companies. If they fail to keep prices under control or do not provide a good service, they risk being punished as customers vote with their feet.

“While today’s figures show good progress, the market is not as competitive as we would like. That is why we have put a temporary price cap in place to protect people on prepayment meters who have the least access to competitive deals and why we are pursuing a raft of reforms which will make this market fairer, smarter and more competitive for consumers.”

The time it takes to change supplier has reduced significantly in recent years, according to Ofgem, with the vast majority of switches taking three weeks compared to three years ago when it took around five weeks.

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