Figures published today (21 January) show that 2018 was a “record year” for switching, with more than 5.8 million making a change.

This represents one in five customers and is a six per cent increase on the previous year’s record figures when 5.5 million customers switched electricity supplier.

The data shows that, on average, nearly half a million customers switched supplier every month in 2018, continuing the trend of year-on-year increases in energy switching and high levels of engagement, particularly when compared to other sectors.

In December alone, nearly half a million customers (464,378) switched supplier, up 10 per cent on December 2017.

The figures show that nearly 100,000 customers (98,962) switched to small and mid-tier suppliers last month, which is 21 per cent of all switches in December.

The figures also reveal that a net 1.7 million customers moved to a small or mid-tier supplier during 2018 – which is around 30 per cent of all switches.

According to the latest research from industry initiative the Energy Switch Guarantee, consumers continue to have confidence in switching.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, said: “It is positive to see such high levels of energy switching – particularly when compared to other sectors – with one in five customers switching supplier in 2018.

“My hope remains that, with the recent introduction of the price cap, we don’t see this element of competition undermined and switching levels fall, as is predicted in Ofgem’s impact assessment.

“With winter in full swing, I urge everyone to get in touch with their supplier or have a look online to make sure they are on the best energy tariff for them, whether that be on price, service or green considerations.

“More importantly, as the temperatures fall, consumers should ensure their house is energy efficient – for example checking that it is well insulated – which is the best way to keep energy bills down in the long run.”

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, said in response to the figures:“Politicians claim the energy market is broken and there isn’t effective competition, but the record breaking switching numbers – as well as the continued net gains made by small and medium suppliers breaking the stranglehold of the big six – tell a different story.

“We are also only a couple of weeks away from the next price cap level being announced by the regulator Ofgem, with a rise of about £100 being forecast.

“So those people who are not part of 20 per cent who are now switching regularly, need to act now before they get hit by another price increase.”

Matthew Vickers, chief executive and chief ombudsman at the Energy Ombudsman, said: “The record levels of switching we’re seeing shows that suppliers have a real fight on their hands to retain customers in the face of intense competition.

“Consumers are realising that it isn’t all about price when choosing a new supplier, so an ability to demonstrate good customer care and service – including accurate billing and effective complaint handling – is more important than ever.”

Head of regulation at Uswitch, Richard Neudegg, said:“2018’s record switching levels show that more and more households have taken advantage of strong competition to beat energy price rises and save hundreds of pounds by switching.

“We’re so close to a tipping point where the majority of energy customers won’t be on poor value standard variable tariffs, which will put more pressure on suppliers to up their game.

“In 2019, it’s vital that consumers don’t fall into the price cap trap by thinking they will no longer suffer price rises on standard tariffs.

“This is especially true as Ofgem is expected to announce an increase in the level of the price cap in a few weeks’ time – which means the cost of standard tariffs is likely to go up, affecting over half the households in Britain.”