June 17, 2014 / 6:12 AM / 4 years ago

UK energy watchdog to impose next-day supplier switch by end 2018

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s energy regulator Ofgem will require energy suppliers to allow customers to switch provider in just one day by the end of 2018, an initiative set to make it easier for households to shop around for better gas and electricity deals.

Britons are furious about the continuously rising cost to heat and light their homes as bills have more than doubled in the ten years to 2013 due to commodity prices and transmission costs increasing.

Ofgem as well as the government have advised consumers to switch supplier frequently to avoid being trapped in standard tariffs that are typically more expensive.

The regulator on Monday proposed to enforce the necessary changes to make it easier for consumers to change supplier, mainly by modernising the IT system used to switch customers which was developed in the 1990s.

“Consumers can change their bank in seven days, their mobile phone in just a couple, but have to wait significantly longer to switch their energy supplier,” said Ofgem Chief Executive Dermot Nolan.

“We have taken steps to make the market simpler, clearer, fairer, we are now leading a programme which will deliver faster, more reliable switching,” he said, adding that households can save more than 200 pounds a year by changing supplier.

It currently takes around five weeks to switch supplier, including a two-week period during which the customer can decide to return to their previous provider.

Ofgem is now proposing rules to cut this time to three days, on top of the two-week ‘cooling off’ period, from the end of this year before enforcing the next-day switching law by the end of 2018.

Only roughly 15 percent of energy consumers currently change supplier, according to government figures.

“Suppliers should introduce 24-hour switching as quickly as possible, under close scrutiny from Ofgem so that the cost to consumers of the new system does not spiral,” said Richard Lloyd, executive director at consumer body Which?.

Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by David Evans

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