What is the Faster Switching Programme and what does it mean for consumers?

Ofgem's Faster Switching Programme goes live today, meaning the current 28-day switching timeframe for business energy customers is now just 2 working days. In this blog, Jono Liddell, Metering, Settlement and Imbalance Manager, shares further information on the Faster Switching Programme and what this means for our Industrial and Commercial business electricity customers.

The Faster Switching Programme is one initiative within a broader set of reforms from Ofgem that aims to improve consumers' experience of the energy market. As part of the switching programme, the existing switching services, UK Link for gas and the Meter Point Registration Service (MPRS) for electricity, are being replaced by a new Central Switching Service (CSS), designed to be reliable, fast and cost-effective and harmonise processes across gas and electricity.

In the lead-up to today's go-live date, SmartestEnergy has been preparing our employees and ensuring our IT systems are ready to go, enabling all registrations to be processed via our adaptors into the new Central Switching Service. We also have a dedicated project team in place for the six weeks to ensure our established switching process runs smoothly.  

Through reduced complexity and better management of industry data, the reforms seek to deliver the potential for faster switching as a new industry standard and improve the reliability of the switching process. It has introduced new, flexible, harmonised dual-fuel systems which can respond to significant changes in the energy market, whilst building consumer confidence and facilitating competition to deliver better outcomes for consumers.

Prior to moving forward with the Faster Switching Programme, Ofgem ran customer surveys, which showed that the previous switching arrangements often resulted in negative outcomes for consumers and deterred some from engaging. In response to Ofgem's Consumer Survey, 41% of consumers interviewed were worried that something would go wrong when switching suppliers, and of those that have not switched suppliers, 10% cited reliability as a reason for not doing so.

Furthermore, evidence gathered by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also found that the switching arrangements are unreliable and can lead to delays, errors and costs, which, in turn, may impact customer confidence and the propensity to switch. A third of consumers it surveyed reported having encountered one or more difficulties with their switch. One of the most common difficulties was delays in the process, cited by 11% of all those who switched.

It became clear that there needed to be a change; the new Faster Switching Programme aims to reduce the hassle of switching by increasing the speed and reliability of switching, reducing erroneous, delayed or unsuccessful switching, and enabling innovation in the market by bringing technology up to date.

Moreover, the new Faster Switching Programme will play a role in the net zero transition. Stimulating competition and increasing consumer engagement in energy markets are key to achieving our Net Zero Targets. Ofgem is committed to facilitating competition as an effective and sustainable way to keep prices low for all consumers and will help remove barriers to consumer engagement within the energy market.

For further information on the Faster Switching Programme, download our faster switching factsheet here.