Energy bills: auto switching sites have left me trapped on pricey deal


Updated on 05 October 2021 | 6 Comments

Auto switching sites were supposed to take the stress out of shopping for energy deals, but I’m now stuck on a deal I can’t leave.

I’ve been an advocate of auto-switching sites in the past. Personally, I find shopping around for energy tariffs one of the most mind-numbing experiences around, so a service that handles the switch for me sounded perfect.

It meant that I wouldn’t end up on a provider’s standard tariff, the costly ones that have been such a rip-off in the past that the authorities had to introduce the energy price cap.

Unfortunately, it’s because of my apathy towards handling switching myself that I’m now stuck on a rubbish deal that I can’t get out of, meaning higher energy bills just when my energy use is about to rocket.

Flipping with weflip

My first experience with an auto-switching website was with weflip, which was owned by Gocompare.com. And it all went OK (and I have written about auto-switching sites in a positive light before).

The site compared my existing deal with First Utility with those on the market, and pinpointed a tariff from an energy firm I’d never heard of before, called Zebra Energy.

The process itself was great ‒ everything was taken care of for me, and I saved the best part of £90 on the cheaper tariff. Result!

12 months on, weflip contacted me again to recommend a new, cheaper tariff, this time with another provider I was unaware of called Tonik Energy.

Buoyed by my positive experience, I went ahead with the switch, which the firm reckoned would save me a massive £127 compared to what I’d pay staying with Zebra.

It was a no-brainer, so once again I moved suppliers.

Hitting the wall

Things didn’t go so well with Tonik sadly.

Within just a few months the supplier had gone bust, its customers picked up by Scottish Power. I detailed my experiences with this particular move for loveMONEY at the time, but suffice to say it was all pretty straightforward.

A couple of months later weflip was bought by rival Look After My Bills, and to be honest I wasn’t a fan of my dealings with the Look After My Bills team.

Rather than take a proactive role in choosing my energy supplier, I opted to continue with an auto-switching service, albeit a different one.

So I signed up for MoneySavingExpert’s Cheap Energy Club, which picked out Green Supplier Limited as the best deal for me, cutting my bills by £67 a year.

The switch itself went through smoothly, and I hoped that was the end of worrying about energy suppliers for a year.

Spoiler alert ‒ that didn’t happen. A couple of weeks ago ‒ and about five months after the switch took place ‒ Green became the latest victim of the ongoing energy crisis which has seen a succession of small suppliers unable to remain in business.

I’m trapped

I have now been moved over to Shell Energy, and again the process has been smooth.

The trouble is that I’m trapped. My auto-switching service has pointed out that the energy crisis is so acute that no rival supplier is taking on new customers on terms much cheaper than the existing energy price cap.

In other words, there’s not much value to switching at all ‒ I just have to sit on the fairly naff deal I now have and lump it, until (or perhaps if) things settle down.

And the annoying thing is, this is ultimately my fault.

Obviously, I’m not to blame for two successive suppliers hitting the skids, but if I’m honest if it wasn’t for an auto-switching service suggesting them, I wouldn’t have taken out their tariffs.

That’s because when it comes to supporting the little guy, I’m a bit of a fairweather fan.

I’ll move to a challenger supplier, so long as I’ve actually heard of them ‒ First Utility, OVO, and the like would all have been perfectly acceptable when I was the one actively choosing a new supplier.

But I know for a fact that I would have shied away from names like Tonik or Green if they had come up through a price comparison site, precisely because I didn’t know anything about them.

For some reason that didn’t feel like such an issue when the move was suggested through an auto-switching site.

It’s difficult not to be cross at myself.

If I hadn’t taken the lazy ‒ or to be more charitable, timesaving ‒ option of an auto-switching site, I have no doubt that right now I’d be on a relatively cheap tariff from a supplier that isn’t counting down the days until it goes out of business. 

That isn’t the fault of an auto-switching site either.

They have worked in exactly the way they are supposed to, highlighting rival tariffs that will save me money. It was my decision to let those switches go through to small suppliers I’d never heard of.

It’s been a chastening experience and means I’m more likely to go back to sorting out my energy tariffs myself in future, or at least being a bit more choosy when an auto-switching site suggests a new tariff from a less renowned name.

Has your energy firm gone bust? Did you find that supplier through a comparison site or an auto-switching site? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.

 

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