Switching between household utility suppliers should become quicker and easier under proposals unveiled by the Government in a bid to help millions of consumers save billions on bills.

Consumers should be able to switch their energy and communications suppliers or bank accounts quickly and without charge – and have easy access to all the details about their usage under a set of 'Switching Principles' proposed by Business Minister Nick Boles.

They follow findings that more than three quarters of UK consumers have never switched their mobile phone providers and more than two thirds have never changed their broadband suppliers, while £2.2 billion worth of energy savings are available to 11 million households if they were to compare prices. See MoneySavingExpert.com's Utilities and Phones section to switch and save now.

Last year, just 2% of digital TV subscribers and 3% of bank account holders switched, with only slightly higher figures for mobile customers (7%) and broadband and fixed line users (6%), while 12% switched their gas and electricity, according to Ofcom figures.

Just today, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) told banks they need to make switching easier for customers following its in-depth investigation into the current account sector.

What's the Government proposing?

As part of the 'Switching Principles' the Government's calling for:

  • Switching should be free unless consumers are aware of and have consented to reasonable restrictions and charges to do so.
  • The switching process should be quick and at an agreed date.
  • The switching process should be led by the gaining provider.
  • Consumers should have access to their consumption or transaction data. This should be in a format that can be easily reused (eg, Midata) and they should be able to authorise third parties such as comparison sites to access their data to help them switch.
  • Sites and tools that receive payments from suppliers to provide comparisons to consumers should make it clear how this affects results.
  • There should be an effective process for consumers to get redress if anything goes wrong in the switching process.
Government calls for energy firms and banks to make switching quick and easy
Government calls for energy firms and banks to make switching quick and easy

'All too often families miss out on hundreds of pounds of potential savings'

Boles says: "By setting out clear principles for switching suppliers, this government will make it simpler and easier for consumers to shop around for the best deals.

"All too often families miss out on hundreds of pounds of potential savings because they think it will be too complicated or take too long to switch.

"Consumers have a key role to play in driving firms to be more competitive, so we also want to hear from them and industry on how businesses can be more responsive to customers."

The Government is now calling on consumers to contribute to its proposals where they're being invited to share their views on how switching could be improved, as well as to share their own experiences of switching. This is open until 4 December.

Additional reporting by the Press Association