Hundreds of thousands of energy customers across the UK are being moved to a new energy supplier, after two UK providers went bust shortly after the other (via The Guardian).
Both Utility Point and People's Energy have ceased trading, seemingly due to the breathtakingly high energy prices.
A blog post by People's Energy – which accounts for most of the affected customers – states that "Ofgem, the energy regulator, will be appointing a new supplier for all our customers," and that it advises customers "not to switch" as accounts and "credits balances" are transferred over to a new provider.
The first thing to note is that no-one's energy is being switched off overnight. People's Energy states that "your energy supply is secure and all account credit balances are protected for our domestic customers. This includes any recent top-ups that were made as part of the seasonal weighting initiative."
It is, however, an alarming development, and speaks to the disruption being caused by rising energy prices – but what should a worried customer do in this situation?
Should I switch suppliers?
As above, Ofgem's official advice is to sit tight while the mess is sorted out. An exodus of customers would likely make the transfer much more difficult for both the suppliers shutting down and whoever is taking on the affected accounts.
There's no clear time frame for this, though we expect something will be sorted in the coming weeks.
However, once your account is carried over to a competing supplier, it's well worth assessing how happy you are with the change, and whether there's a cheaper option out there – as the monthly rates may not be the same.
There are a host of UK energy suppliers to choose from, and some of them – like People's Energy – run mostly or entirely on renewable energy sources, such as Bulb or Octopus. You can check out our guide to the best energy suppliers in the UK too.
What is going on?
What's most alarming is that around seven energy suppliers have closed in the UK over the past year – most of them during the months of August and September – including PfP Energy, MoneyPlus Energy, and Hub Energy.
Carrie-Ann Skinner, TechRadar's Homes Editor, is one of the thousands affected and feels that while consumers are being encouraged to switch suppliers to get a better deal, when it goes wrong, you're left feeling anxious and stuck with even more life admin to deal with .
"I've been a regular switcher, both for energy and other utilities for more than a decade now, but having experienced not one, but two energy firms I'm using, going into administration this year alone, I'm extremely frustrated, " she said.
"Switching is billed as extremely simple. Once you've agreed to a new supplier, there's very little input. However, when an energy supplier does go bust, the anxiety I've experienced over which firm will take over, whether they will honor any fixed price deals, and if I'm in credit, how long will it take to get my money back, has proved that in reality if the worst happens it's anything but simple."
There's little a customer on the ground can do, of course. The knock-on effect of so many closures, especially among more mid-sized suppliers, will likely only increase the dominance of the 'Big Six': British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE. And it's likely former People's Energy or Utility Point customers will be shunted onto one of these.
There are still options, but fewer than ever – and it's especially sad to lose another renewable energy supplier as the UK sees a surge in reliance on gas and coal. Things looks set to change, with incoming investment in offshore wind recently announced by the UK government, but in the meantime there's some uncertainty we're going to have to live with – even if it means moving to a new energy supplier now and then.