Consumers all talk and little action when switching service providers, survey finds

Consumers all talk and little action when switching service providers, survey finds

Caroline O'Doherty

Consumers are all talk and little action when it comes to switching service providers to avail of better deals from competitors.

According to a survey, 66% of Irish bill-payers plan to switch away from a service or utility provider in the next year but 68% admit they have made such a pledge in the past and failed to go through with it.

That's despite possible savings of €1,150 over 12 months if only people could bring themselves to walk away from a few of their current suppliers.

The survey, by cost comparison website Switcher.ie, found most consumers knew there were lower cost options or packages with better deals available but they got stuck when it came to making the break from their current arrangements.

Some 42% said switching would be a hassle for them while 28% were not entirely sure that they would save money if they switched.

Other concerns cited include uncertainty as to whether the new service was equal to their existing one (25% of respondents), reluctance to get tied into another contract (26%) and fear of being cut off or left without a service (8%).

Confusion as to the contractual arrangements in place was an issue for 17% who said they didn't know if they were free to switch. That's despite the fact that consumers can switch once they're outside of the contract's minimum term which is usually 12-24 months.

However, even if outside those timeframes, many customers will have to give their service provider notice of their intention to leave - usually 30 days in - in order for a final bill to be issued and the account closed off. Only 23% of respondents knew about this condition.

But whether it's down to laziness, loyalty or leeriness, the result is that Irish people are sticking with their service providers for long periods. Two-thirds (64%) of current account holders have been with the same bank for more than 10 years as have 34% of home phone customers, 33% of mobile phone owners and 31% of health insurance customers.

Some 26% of digital TV subscribers, 25% of electricity bill payers and 24% of household waste customers have also been with their provider for more than a decade.

Eoin Clarke, managing director of Switcher.ie, said customers who stayed long-term with service providers were likely to be missing out on discounts offered for new customers by competitors while having long ago lost the benefit of whatever discount their current provider offered them when they first signed up there.

He said switching energy, broadband and mobile providers could save the average customer €1,150 in the next 12 months alone.

"It's great that such a high percentage of consumers are considering switching this year but we're concerned that this could be all talk and little action," he said.

Switching offers us the chance to take back control of our spending and get more bang for our buck, but unfounded fear factors are preventing many from going through with switching.

Switcher.ie provides price comparisons and facilitates switching. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, ccpc.ie, provides cost comparisons for a range of financial products.

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