Consumers thinking of switching energy providers to take advantage of the current price war in fuel tariffs are being urged to hold off until all suppliers have declared their reductions.

The advice comes as householders receive some relief from the soaring energy bills of last year, with four of the country’s leading suppliers announcing double-digit or near double-digit cuts to standard tariffs for gas and electricity.

In the past month, British Gas has dropped its dual fuel tariff by 15 per cent, NPower by 10 per cent and both Scottish and Southern and Powergen by 9 per cent.

The steepest cuts have been to gas tariffs, ranging between 12 and 17 per cent for all four suppliers, with electricity tariffs dropping by 3-11 per cent.

With two other major suppliers, EdF and Scottish Power, yet to declare cuts to their standard tariffs, some argue it is too early for consumers to switch suppliers for a better deal.

“What you want to have when you compare prices is a level playing field and we don’t have that now,” says Martin Lewis, creator of moneysavingexpert.com, the consumer website. “In the past we have seen prices go up by 20 per cent so when they drop by up to 18 per cent it is a seismic shift in pricing so it is worth waiting a couple of weeks to see who has the cheapest prices.”

However, others believe that consumers should not wait for all market players to enter the competitive fray.

Geoff Slaughter, product manager with uSwitch.com, the price comparison website, says consumers should not focus solely on the headline tariffs for dual fuel but look at the savings that can be made by varying their deal structures.

“You can today get discounts by paying your bills by direct debit, buying both fuels from one supplier and considering an online payment plan,” says Slaughter.

“I don’t think there’s a case for jumping too soon as there’s savings to be made today.”

With the “best buy” tables changing almost every week, consumers were also warned to be wary of falling for headline-grabbing price cuts.

“The biggest cut does not mean the cheapest supplier,” says Lewis.

Energywatch.org.uk, the independent utility watchdog, advises consumers wanting to switch not only to consider tariffs but other factors as well, including payment methods and incentives, hidden charges and the number of complaints the utility may have received.

Householders wanting to change suppliers should get in touch with their new supplier and agree a contract with them.

You will need to give your old supplier 28 days’ notice, preferably in writing, that you are changing and then pay any outstanding bills owed to them.

Finally you will have to take a meter reading on the day you change supplier and keep it handy so your old supplier can work out your final bill. The whole process should take about
six weeks.

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