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Switching to a small energy supplier

Switching to a small energy supplier

You can switch to a small energy supplier with uSwitch — but not all small suppliers are created equal. Here's what you need to know about small energy suppliers before you switch.

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In 2006, there were only 10 energy suppliers to choose from, including the big six. Today, there are more than 60 gas and electricity providers able to supply your home, leaving consumers to navigate not just plan options, but supplier options as well.

Many of these new suppliers are recent entrants into the market. In 2013, energy regulator Ofgem unveiled its plans to 'create a more level playing field' for small suppliers in an effort to shake up the market and pave the way for more competition.

And while the new entrants have undoubtedly provided much more choice, many consumers are worried about making the wrong choice when it comes to small suppliers. There has been an increase in small suppliers going out of business, so it is important for consumers to research a potential new supplier before signing up.

uSwitch explains how to choose the right supplier — large or small — for your home.

What is a 'small supplier' anyway?

But first, the basics: the term "small suppliers" — sometimes referred to as "independent suppliers" — is generally used to describe any energy supplier that is NOT the big six, which provide energy to around 75% of the UK's households.

These small suppliers generally have 250,000 customers or fewer, though some larger independent suppliers, like OVO Energy and Shell Energy (formerly known as First Utility), are more established and have several thousand more.

The pros and cons of small energy suppliers

Pros

Small suppliers are able to offer cheap energy deals because they have smaller overheads than more established suppliers. They are also not held to the same costly obligations that large suppliers are, such as paying into government schemes like ECO.

Cons

Making it easier to enter the market has its downsides. In 2015 alone, more than 10 new suppliers began offering plans to consumers. And, while these suppliers were able to arrive on the market with cheap-as-chips plans, consumers had little-to-no info about who these suppliers were.

Meanwhile, with greater exposure to new suppliers through price comparison sites, customers can come flooding in to sign up with them, but they may not have the capacity to process the switches properly. This results in a poor switching experience for the customer that takes longer than it should.

Further, smaller overheads could also mean a smaller customer service team to handle any issues you might have related to your supply or your switch.

How can I find out more about a particular small supplier?

If you run an energy comparison through uSwitch, information about the supplier is provided in your results on the Plan Info page.

This information includes when the suppliers were established, any warnings such as advance payment requirements and, where available, an independent customer satisfaction score.

We also provide a guide to energy suppliers, which contains an array of information about many energy providers (both large and small) currently available on the market.

You can also use trusted user review sites like Trustpilot to read real experiences and feedback from customers of any given supplier.

What if the supplier can’t provide me with energy anymore?

While most small energy suppliers operate with no issues, some smaller names have ceased trading in the last few years.

However, you can rest assured there are rules to protect your household against any energy supplier going bankrupt. Energy regulator Ofgem has enforced a number of regulations and, should there be a problem, you will be switched to a new supplier.

Run an energy comparison to see how much you could save

Temperatures are dropping by the day, so make sure you're not overpaying for your energy by switching to a fixed deal now. Enter your postcode below to get started.

What other factors should I take into consideration?

When comparing energy suppliers you should not just consider price. Different people have different priorities, and your ideal supplier may not necessarily be the least expensive.

Small suppliers may have cheaper deals than their larger competitors but may not offer perks including vouchers, gifts or points. Other elements you might want to take into account are whether or not energy plans use a certain amount of renewable or "green" energy.

Again, our energy provider comparison table has all the information you need to make a decision about switching suppliers.

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