How to switch electricity and gas suppliers

Switching suppliers is simple and transition usually smooth. However, finding a suitable supplier is not always easy. The following article will show you how to proceed.
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Summary of the most important information:

  • You will not run the risk of being left without electricity or gas when you switch suppliers.
  • You can usually instruct your new supplier to cancel your existing electricity or gas contract.
  • However, you should always declare special cancellations ("Sonderkündigung") yourself.

Is there a risk of being left without gas or electricity when switching suppliers?

In Germany, you will not run the risk of being left without gas or electricity when changing your supplier as the supply of energy in Germany is regulated by law. If something is unclear, the basic supplier ("Grundversorger", link only available in German) in your area will step in and provide you with gas or electricity. Technically speaking, changing your supplier will not change the electricity or gas itself. Therefore, you will not experience any differences in terms of quality. Additionally, switching suppliers does not mean somebody has to come to your home. The process is free of charge.

How quickly can I switch suppliers?

The actual change of supplier must not take longer than three weeks. However, this refers only to the switching process itself ­­– starting at the time your new energy supplier contacts the network operator. When your switch is complete naturally also depends on the remaining contract term and cancellation period of your previous electricity or gas contract.

How does switching suppliers work?

Our practical PDF checklist (only available in German) provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to change your supplier.

You can also find companies that will take care of the process of switching suppliers for you, so-called "Wechseldienstleister" (link only available in German). Relying on these has both advantages and disadvantages.

If you want to switch suppliers yourself, this is how you proceed:

1. Prepare your data and identify the contract terms

The easiest way to do this is to have your last electricity or gas bill to hand as the next possible cancellation date is also included here. If your current electricity or gas contract still runs for more than three months, you should postpone your search for a new energy supplier accordingly as offers on the market may change in the meantime.

If you have just moved in (link only available in German) or have never changed your tariff, you will probably be supplied by your local basic supplier ("Grundversorger", link only available in German) with a basic supply tariff ("Grundversorgung"). In this case, you can terminate your contract at any time with a notice period of 14 days.

Find out more about consumer-friendly contract terms and conditions (link only available in German) so that you can choose a good, suitable tariff.

To compare your current rates with new offers, all you need is your postcode and your annual energy consumption which can be found on your gas or electricity bill. If your bill does not cover an entire year, you can simply extrapolate the numbers for household electricity. With gas, you should bear in mind that gas consumption is not spread evenly over the year. You can read more about this in the section "Particularities when switching gas supplier" below. The information found there also applies if you heat your home using electricity.

If you do not know your consumption at all, choose standards that are, for example, suggested on websites that compare tariffs. These are usually based on the number of people living in a home for electricity and on the size of the flat for gas. Alternatively, you can contact the free energy consulting provided by the Verbraucherzentrale.

2. Select a new tariff

On this page (link only available in German), we have summarised how you should proceed and which points you should look out for in a tariff in order to find the right offer.

Once you have found a suitable offer, check the supplier’s website to see whether the details there match those in the tariff calculator. If there are deviations, although the tariff was not labelled as an exclusive offer on this comparison website, contact the supplier directly.

Once you have made your choice, take a screenshot of the main tariff features, especially the bonus conditions. Compare this screenshot with your order confirmation once you receive the confirmation. This screenshot can help you any disputes with your new supplier should arise.

3. Enter into a new contract and cancel the old contract

Once you have decided on a tariff, you can either enter into the new contract directly with the supplier or, in some cases, via the comparison website. The website usually receives a commission for switches of this kind. In any case, the new supplier will cancel your previous contract for you if you give them the appropriate authorisation.

Attention: Cancellations that are time-critical should be declared by yourself! Even in the case of so-called special contracts, the energy supplier must now confirm cancellation promptly in writing ("within one week"). If your cancellation period will expire soon and the contract would otherwise be extended automatically, you should cancel the contract yourself. This also applies to special cancellations ("Sonderkündigung") that you can declare without notice.

To be on the safe side: If you are cancelling your current contract due to an announced price increase, do not rely on a new supplier and cancel your current contract yourself. Some suppliers will not carry out the switch of suppliers if you want to cancel based on a special cancellation right. Be sure to inform your new supplier that you have already cancelled your previous contract. You can often make a corresponding note on the new supplier’s order form, for example: "I have already cancelled my old contract myself".

The new electricity or gas contract is usually concluded as soon as your new supplier has sent you a contract confirmation with the expected start of supply.

You should compare the prices as well as contract terms and conditions on the confirmation with the offer details and contact your new supplier if there are any discrepancies.

Your previous supplier will issue a final invoice. The supplier has up to 6 weeks after the end of supply (link only available in German) to do so.

4. Your right of cancellation

If you have concluded your new contract online, you have the right to cancel the contract without giving reasons (link only available in German).

This applies not only to online contracts, but always if the contract is a so-called distance contract ("Fernabsatzvertrag"). These also include contracts that you conclude via e-mail, text message, fax or letter. You also have cancellation rights if you conclude a contract outside of commercial premises, for example at your front door.

You can cancel within 14 days from the date on which you were duly informed of your right of cancellation. As a rule, this is the day on which the contract is concluded, as you will usually receive information on your right of cancellation and a cancellation form along with the order confirmation. If you have concluded the contract in the supplier’s premises, however, you have no right of cancellation.

5. Submit meter readings

Read your meter on the day you switch suppliers. In order to avoid misunderstandings, pass the meter reading on to the responsible grid operator ("", link only available in German) as well as the old and the new electricity or gas supplier.

6. Deletion of data (recommended for frequent switchers)

The Verbraucherzentrale has repeatedly received reports that customers are being rejected by energy suppliers despite having a good credit rating. One possible reason: Frequent switchers that receive switching bonuses every year are not attractive customers for energy suppliers and are rejected by some companies. If you change your energy supplier frequently, you should contact your former energy supplier and request that your personal data be deleted. You can use this sample letter (only available in German) to do so. You can check if your data has been deleted by requesting a disclosure (link only available in German) from your former energy supplier.

Particularities when switching gas supplier

Compared to switching your electricity supplier, there are some particularities that you need to keep in mind when switching your gas supplier. The Verbraucherzentrale’s energy advice ("Energieberatung", link only available in German) team can provide you with a good assessment of your average heating energy requirements in a free appointment. Some regional Verbraucherzentrale teams also provide personal consulting or telephone advice for those thinking about switching suppliers.

Extrapolate your gas consumption per year

If you know your gas consumption for a few months only and not for the complete year, you can use the table below to calculate your approximate annual consumption. The table shows what proportion of your annual consumption occurs on average in which months. In the example below, the annual consumption is 14,000 kWh.

The table below only refers to gas consumption for heating, not for hot water. Unlike the amount of energy required for heating, the amount of energy required for hot water is roughly the same throughout the year. For this reason, the consumption figures calculated using this table should only be regarded as approximate values, especially if your gas heating system is also used to provide hot water.

The extrapolation can also be used if you want to calculate how much energy night storage heaters consume. It does not, however, apply to electricity required for heat pumps.

To calculate the annual consumption, add the percentages of the months known to you together and use the following formula to calculate the annual total:

Consumption of the months known to you in kWh times 100 divided by the sum of the percentages

Estimate your gas consumption per year

If you do not have a gas bill, you can also roughly estimate your gas consumption based on the size of your home. However, significant deviations are possible here, as gas consumption depends heavily on the condition of the building you live in and on your heating behaviour.

If you are moving into a new flat or house, you should also consult the energy performance certificate ("Energieausweis", link only available in German) for a rough estimate of your consumption.

Convert cubic metres to kilowatt hours

If you do not have a bill at hand, you can also determine your consumption using meter readings and extrapolate these if necessary. You can read more about this above in the section "Extrapolate your gas consumption per year". In order to do so, a conversion is required as the gas meter shows consumption in m³ (cubic metres). One cubic metre corresponds to approximately 10 kWh. Take the annual consumption in cubic metres times ten to obtain a rough estimate for the kilowatt hours.

Identify your boiler’s output

Some gas suppliers in Germany calculate their prices not only according to the annual amount of gas, but also according to the maximum amount purchased per hour – in other words, the heating output in kilowatts (kW). It is therefore sometimes necessary to specify this value.

If you cannot find any information on your device or in the instructions, you can determine rough heat output estimates yourself by using the following calculations:

  • Boiler without heating of drinking water: Annual gas consumption in kWh divided by 1,500 hours (h).
    Example: 15,000 kWh ÷ 1,500 h = 10 kW
  • Boiler with heating of drinking water: Annual gas consumption in kWh divided by 1,650 hours.
    Example: 20,000 kWh ÷ 1,650 h = 12 kW

For domestic hot water heating without a storage tank (for example in single-storey heating systems) the minimum boiler output is usually around 15 kW. Even if the above formula results in a lower value, you should use at least 15 kW.

By the way, you can also save energy and money by taking small measures regarding your heating system (link only available in German) - for example with hydronic balancing.


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