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Independent

Get a jolt in your pocket by switching energy supplier

If someone took hundreds of euro from you then you would be justifiably angry. You would likely go to great lengths to get the money back, and complain to all and sundry about the loss of the cash. And you would be right to be annoyed about the loss of up to €300. - Charlie Weston

So why, then, do most of us allow ourselves to be hoodwinked out of that amount of money every year? The cost of heating and lighting our homes has jumped by a huge amount in the past five years. Since 2010 the average electricity bill has risen by more than €200, with a family now typically spending €1,200 a year. And domestic gas costs have also jumped by a similar amount, with householders now shelling out €944 a year. We are not powerless in this situation of rising energy costs. We can do something about it.

Switching is the answer, something that can save the average family that uses both electricity and gas around €300 a year. But few of us bother, and energy companies are guilty of exploiting the reluctance of most people to switch energy suppliers to get better deals. There are close to two million electricity customers in this country, but only around 340,000 of these households regularly switch.

Only 15pc of people switch energy supplier each year. Those who do not switch end up on high standard tariffs.

There is always a new discount or other incentive on offer, but households are missing out on massive savings by not switching.

This means those who do not switch - the majority of us - are actually subsidising the astute switchers. What this amounts to is energy companies hoodwinking us out of €300 a year.

 And it leads to a situation where energy companies do not feel compelled to reduce their prices. Bord Gais Energy and Electric Ireland have announced small cuts in their prices, but this has not sparked a major price among the rest of the suppliers.

And this is at a time when Irish wholesale gas prices are now 21pc lower in euro terms than the average monthly price recorded for September in each of the past three years.

Customer inertia means that energy companies can get away with small reductions in prices, and only some of them are even bothering with the reductions.

But the deals on offer mean that people who regularly switch their electricity and gas can save a not inconsiderable €314 a year, according to Simon Moynihan of comparison site Bonkers.ie.

Energy companies are liable to sit back and laugh at us unless we become more engaged in switching energy suppliers.

Switching is relatively easy. To change your electricity supplier, you will need your MPRN (meter point reference number), which is a unique number for your home. You can find this on the first page of your electricity bill. If you want to switch your gas supply, you'll need your GPRN (gas point reference number), which again can be found on the first page of your gas bill.

You will need to provide meter readings when you switch. That's how your new supplier will know where to start billing you and your old supplier will know where to stop. Taking readings yourself is best.

You will need billing information if you want to pay by direct debit too. If you pay by direct debit you qualify for the best discounts.

It takes around two weeks for a switch to complete.

To find the best deals, use an accredited gas and electricity comparison and switching service like Bonkers.ie.

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