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Switching rate exceeded five million in 2007

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Figures from energy regulator Ofgem show that the switching rate for gas and electricity suppliers hit more than five million in 2007.

The figures represent the highest level of switching for five years.

All the major energy suppliers have now increased their bills this year. However customers who have yet to switch can still save on average £92 if they pay by standard credit. They could save even more if they also switched to cheaper payment methods such as direct debit.

Alistair Buchanan, Ofgem chief executive, said: “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.

“However, some customers have voiced concerns about the market and we have responded by launching an investigation to examine whether it is working effectively for all customers.”

Research conducted for Ofgem shows that certain customers including pensioners, the unemployed and those on low incomes are switching less than other groups. So Ofgem has launched a pilot campaign, ‘Energy Best Deal’, with Citizens Advice to encourage more of these customers to switch to a better deal.

The scheme involves training advisers from Citizens Advice, housing associations and other organisations that deal directly with people on low incomes to help customers reduce bills by explaining how they can switch. They will also advise customers on what support is available to them from the Government and industry to help them to better manage their bills.

Paul Schofield, head of utilities at price comparison site, said: “Encouraging as it is to see consumers joining the switching race, Ofgem’s figures can be attributed to the growth of the ‘tariff tart’. So, it’s not a case of more people changing their tariffs, but merely the same people changing more frequently.

“There are still 63% of Brits languishing on a standard tariff and paying over the odds. Instead of signing up online and then paying monthly by direct debit, people are still getting a bill mailed to them every three months and paying by cash or cheque.”

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