These days, we are surrounded by choice, a fact which gas and electric companies are only too keen to remind us about. For some, shopping around for the best deal on electricity, Internet, gas and so on might seem an unnecessary hassle; for others it could be a great way of saving money. This article explores how shopping around for a cheaper supplier can save you money, but may also have some disadvantages.
Step one: Which services could I switch?
First of all, it’s wise to consider which suppliers could be changed. This may include: gas, electricity, telephone (mobile and landline), Internet and insurance (house, car, possessions, travel). It is also important to know how long you’ve signed up for and what the possible penalties are for changing supplier before the contract ends. Sometimes there may be a way around certain penalties; for example, if you are moving house.
Step two: What companies are out there?
The next step is to find out what the competition is for each service. The Internet is a good source of information for this. The advice of friends, colleagues and family may also be useful, but it is worth bearing in mind that one person’s good or bad experience may not be representative of customer experiences in general. There will inevitably be a few dissatisfied customers of each supplier.
Putting “Internet provider” or “gas supplier” into a search engine can be a useful way of finding out which are the relevant companies. You might want to add “UK” after it in order to avoid American suppliers, and you may even need to check that the supplier covers your local area (particularly for certain broadband services). Once you have a list of suppliers, you can begin comparing them to you current supplier.
Step three: Comparison and decision making
Comparison can often be the hardest part. It’s necessary to look closely at what exactly is and isn’t included in the various deals. It may be necessary to call the provider to ask specific questions. Often, reading the small print is also important, as there may be important exceptions and qualifications. Comparison sites can also be useful, but do not always cover all the options nor are they necessarily impartial. Comparison sites are often most useful when you need to input very specific circumstances, as is the case with insurance in particular.
If you come across a limited duration deal which looks very attractive, don’t forget to look closely at the prices which will be applicable when the deal comes to an end. These may be exceptionally high, in order to make up for the losses incurred by company during the cheap offer period, so it is worth careful examination. In addition, make sure you factor in one-off costs like installation costs.
Reviews from industry experts can be very useful in the comparison process, especially if the expert is completely impartial. These can be found online, in specific magazines and sometimes in newspapers. Sometimes they produce a league table where various factors are taken into account. Be aware, however, that the factors they consider most important may not be top on your list. You might want to draw up your own comparison table to clarify exactly what is offered by each provider.
It may sound obvious, but don’t forget to also consider the quality of service received so far from your current provider. Is it easy to get through to a helpline? Is the helpline free or premium rate? Were any problems resolved quickly and successfully? If you already receive a good service, it may not be worth switching just for a few pounds. On the contrary, if the service received so far has been poor, it may be worth switching even for a small or negligible financial benefit.
Finally, check the contract length of the new supplier. Even if the price is great, it’s best not to end up contractually bound for a long time if the service isn’t the quality you were expecting.
It is also worth considering the degree of hassle involved in a change. Will you need a new telephone number? New equipment installed? Weigh up these disadvantages with the potential savings.
Step four: Making the switch
On calling the chosen provider to sign up to a specific deal, make sure you know exactly which deal you’re going for and check that you do indeed receive that deal (you can never be too careful). Make sure that you have proof of cancellation with the previous supplier and put an end to any standing orders (or check that direct debits have come to an end when they should have).
In summary, switching service provider can lead to welcome savings but following a thorough procedure of investigation before making the switch is well worthwhile in the long run.