Customers of electricity provider iSupplyEnergy will no longer be blocked from switching if they don't tell it they're moving elsewhere, following concerns flagged by both customers and MoneySavingExpert.com.
Normally when households switch energy provider, they tell the new supplier they want to join it, and it will then do all the work, including notifying the previous supplier of the move (join our free Cheap Energy Club to see if you can switch and save).
But iSupplyEnergy, which currently only sells one product – a fixed electricity tariff – unusually has a clause in its terms and conditions stating that customers must notify it either by post or via their online account portal of their desire to switch.
If they don't, iSupplyEnergy objects to the new provider's switching request and emails customers telling them they have five days to confirm they want the transfer to go ahead. If customers don't, it'll cancel the switch.
We raised the issue with iSupplyEnergy after receiving a few complaints from confused MoneySavers who didn't know why their switch had been cancelled.
However, over the last few months a new system has been developed, which means customers can switch without having to tell iSupplyEnergy.
Instead, when iSupplyEnergy receives a request to switch from a new supplier, it will email customers to let them know and to say that the switch will go ahead unless it's objected to within five days. It's hoping to launch this in the new year.
iSupply says it currently requires customers to tell it they're switching to prevent erroneous transfers from taking place and that this is clearly detailed in its T&Cs. But it's changing this practice following feedback that the procedure isn't as clear or as effective as it should be.
Customers switching away from iSupplyEnergy may still be charged a £30 fee for cancelling before their fixed term ends, but this is a common practice among energy providers.
'Shockingly bad behaviour'
Archna Luthra, energy expert at MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "iSupplyEnergy has been caught red-handed trying to make it difficult for users to switch, which is shockingly bad behaviour, so thank goodness it is U-turning on this sharp practice following feedback from ourselves and its customers.
"In an open and competitive market, everyone should be allowed to switch to where they want to with a minimum amount of disruption. iSupplyEnergy has not been playing fair and it should be ashamed."
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Do I have to tell my provider I'm switching?
When we asked the big six energy providers – British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE – as well as two smaller providers – Ovo and First Utility – they all said they customers don't need to inform them that they're switching elsewhere.
What are the rules?
Energy regulator Ofgem's licence conditions state that households don't have to give any form of notice to switch supplier, or to cancel a fixed contract.
Providers can only object to a customer moving to a new supplier if one or more of the following apply:
- The customer is in debt to the losing supplier.
- The new supplier and the losing supplier have agreed that the switch was initiated in error.
- The customer asks the losing supplier to object to the switch.
- The customer has a fixed term contract, which won't end on or before the date of the proposed switch – Ofgem however adds that this is more in relation to suppliers collecting early exit fees and that switching before your fix ends isn't enough to hold up the process.