Martin Lewis: Don't pay the price of the big six rip-off

If you're one of the 60 per cent of people on a standard tariff, including the big six energy firms, you're being ripped off. And that rip-off is getting bigger. After huge price hike announcements, many are burning £350 per year, yet it takes just five minutes for you to stop it.

The main energy providers have all made huge price hike announcements, so comparing what you pay is more important than ever Picture: PA

And right now is the moment, because with all the big six having announced their price intentions, there’s a level playing field for comparison.

Switching isn’t that big a deal. It’s the same gas, same electricity, same safety: all that changes is customer service and billing. And don’t worry, no engineers come to visit, and you won’t be cut off mid-switch, you are guaranteed continuous supply.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Finding the cheapest deal depends on your location and how much you use. That’s why by far the easiest thing to do is use a comparison site – where you just put in your details and it finds you your cheapest deal.

It takes just five minutes with my, which I’ve designed to try and make it easy, and it automatically lets you see all tariffs across the market, and then monitors afterwards in case a cheap deal launches. Plus as comparison sites get paid around £60 (dual fuel) if you switch through them, Cheap Energy Club gives you £30 cashback.

Alternatively use any approved comparison site. However, do beware: some will ask you something like, “Do you only want to see tariffs we can switch you to today?” This is a proxy for, “only see tariffs that pay us”. So always select to see the whole of the market.

And if you’ve not switched because you find comparing too confusing, my most important message is that the sin of not comparing is worse than the sin of getting a comparison wrong. You may end up on your third or fourth cheapest instead of your first, and with wrong predicted savings – yet you’d still be on a cheaper deal.

Now let me answer a few commons switching questions…

Can I switch if I’m on a prepayment (key or card) meter?

Yes. Just do a comparison, though the savings tend not to be as large. Far bigger savings are possible by switching to a standard meter, as there’s more competition. If you’re with a big six firm you won’t be charged for switching meter, though you will usually have to pass its credit check. Full help in

I’m electricity only, what should I do?

You can do an electricity only comparison exactly the same way as dual fuel, and the savings can still be substantial. If you’re on an Economy 7 or 10 tariff, comparing is trickier though.

I switched to a cheap fix, then it put my price up, have I been conned?

If you switch to a tariff with a guaranteed cheaper rate, you will save on the energy used. Yet if the firm estimated you’d use less energy than you are, the initial direct debit can rise. This feels like a price hike, but in the end as it’s a cheaper rate while frustrating, you’re still better off. But do get on the phone and ask it to justify any direct debit rise. If it can’t you’ve a right to have it at a fair level.

I switched, but my bills haven’t dropped by the predicted saving, what can I do?

When you do a comparison the ‘saving’ is compared to what you would’ve paid if you did nothing. Yet prices are rising, so if your bill was £1,000 last year, it would be £1,100ish this year, therefore a £200 saving only cuts what you actually pay by £100.

Is direct debit really cheaper?

Yes. Suppliers charge around 6 per cent less if you pay specifically by monthly direct debit, so if you can, opt for that, but always give regular meter readings to get accurate bills.

I rent, can I switch?

Landlords can’t stop you changing supplier (unless your rent includes the energy bill). If they unfairly band it in your contract send them this factsheet: However, you do need a landlord’s permission to change the physical meter, eg switching from a prepayment to a normal meter.

I’m moving home, is there any point switching?

Yes, but grab a ‘portable’ deal. That’s one that can move with you when you move. You’ll find whether it’s portable listed by most comparison sites.

I’ve just moved home, and have no bills, what do I do?

Most comparison sites will ask you a few questions and estimate your usage.

The comparison shows my cheapest is a small provider I’ve not heard of. Should I worry?

There’s a lot of small, new challenger energy firms. Big picture is, don’t worry. Even in the unlikely event that one went bust, the regulator Ofgem guarantees you won’t be cut off, your custom will be moved elsewhere – though you may lose any super cheap deal (but would be free to switch elsewhere).

The bigger issue is some of these small firms pump out very cheap deals to build market share, and then can’t cope with the demand, hitting their customer service. So look at the feedback ratings on comparison sites, and if it’s not good, scroll to the next cheapest.

Martin Lewis is the founder and chair of To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to