- A third (32%) of households are already worried about this winter’s energy bills and over a half (55%) are struggling with their household finances
- Shock findings come as British Gas’ eye-watering 12.5% electricity price hike – affecting 3.1 million customers – is the latest price increase from the big six energy suppliers
- One in three (29%) bill payers admits to having never switched energy provider at all
- People living in major cities such as London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester are less likely to switch
- Commuter towns like Hemel Hempstead, Reading, and Milton Keynes join Huddersfield, Harrogate and Stockport as best areas at shopping around for better deals
- uSwitch.com urges consumers across the nation to switch and bank the savings ahead of winter.
A third of households (32%) are already worrying about the cost of their energy bills this winter and over a half (55%) admit to struggling with their household finances according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.
The findings, which follow the announcement of a 12.5% hike in electricity prices from British Gas, looked at switching rates and energy habits across Britain in comparison with the national average. They also reveal that one in three (29%) has never taken advantage of the potential savings from switching supplier,and that Londoners are among the least likely people in the UK to switch.
In the list of towns and cities that switch energy provider less than average, London (32% less likely) is joined by other major cities such as Liverpool (-22%), Newcastle upon Tyne (-10%), Cardiff (-9%), Edinburgh (-5%) and Manchester (-4%).
City residents’ reluctance to switch energy supplier could be a result of having a high proportion of renters. For example, half of households in London are living in rented accommodation and this is expected to climb to six in 10 people by 2025.
Previous uSwitch research revealed high levels of confusion about tenants’ right to switch, finding that more than one in 10 (13%) private landlords admit to forbidding their tenants from switching. In fact, anyone who pays their own gas or electricity bill has the right to change their tariff or supplier, irrespective of whether they are a home owner or a tenant.
London is only kept off the bottom of the switching table by the remote areas of the Outer Hebrides (-45%) and Shetland Isles (-55%), though other factors such as not being on the gas grid, fewer suppliers operating and more micro-generation of energy (e.g. small-scale renewable energy projects) also affect switching rates in these regions.
At the other end of the scale, people living in commuter towns switch more than average. St Albans (33% more likely), Reading (+31%) and Stevenage (+31%) all sit at the top of the table, with cities such as Leeds (+22%), York (+18%) and Oxford (+15%) also more than likely to switch.
Interestingly, the town that comes closest to matching the nation’s average switching rate is Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Coincidentally this is the constituency of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP, who has previously admitted to never switching supplier, although his constituents have been able to save an average of £298 per year by doing so.
Table 1: Switching rates across GB
Source: uSwitch.com. See map of Britain’s savviest switchers for best and worst switching areas
The research shows that on average, people have remained with their current gas and electricity suppliers for over four years, but that one in five (20%) has remained loyal for over a decade. One in three consumers (29%) admits that they have never switched energy provider at all.
Seven in ten energy customers in Britain (17 million) are on expensive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs), which offer the worst value for money. Those who have stayed with their supplier for more than two years without actively choosing a tariff, or have never switched at all, are likely to be on an SVT. The current average price of a big six SVT is £1,138, which is £304 more expensive than the cheapest deal currently on the market.
Among those who have never switched energy supplier, a third (33%) don’t think they would save much money by switching, a fifth (19%) think all suppliers are the same and 17% think the switching process is too complicated.
However, regardless of attitudes towards switching, bill payers do lots of other things to try to reduce their energy bills. More than half of consumers have previously turned down the thermostat (53%) or worn more layers to avoid putting on the heating (51%), while a third (33%) say they they’ve not turned the heating on at all, even when it’s cold. Yet in spite of these efforts, over a half (55%) of British bill payers admit to struggling with their household finances.
Rather than shiver through the winter, these consumers could switch to a better deal and save significant sums of money. When asked what they would do with large savings from an energy switch, one in three (29%) would put it towards a holiday and almost a fifth (17%) said they would use it pay off their other bills.
Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “It’s appalling that a third of Britain’s households are already worrying about how they will be able to afford to keep warm this winter, especially when a half of them also say they are struggling with their household finances.
“To make matters even worse, the latest price hike from British Gas will hit 3 million more energy customers just as they start to think about putting the central heating on. But people can take control before the cold weather kicks in and move to a cheaper deal – as many are following the latest big six price rise this week.
“Whether you own your own home or rent, and whatever part of the country you live in, all energy customers have the right to choose the tariff that’s best for them rather than accepting whatever price their supplier imposes.”
Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.