Sam Dunn: You've never switched? Darling, that's <i>so</i> last year

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The Independent Online

It's a modern-day mantra: switch to save money on your electricity supplier, broadband service, mobile phone, gas, bank etc. If it's not the TV advertisements or billboards, the Government or regulators telling you to do so, then a friend will help you see the light.

At a recent dinner party (where, for once, house prices didn't even get a mention), it transpired that I was the only one who hadn't switched any of my services during the past 12 months – oh, the shame.

A failure to switch regularly has not become a social faux pas yet – although I did receive more than my fair share of raised eyebrows – but we can't be too far off.

When instant savings are there to be plucked, it seems foolish not at least to try. In particular, those who have never switched any of their telecoms or utility services are likely to be able to lop hundreds of pounds off their annual bill.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there has been a backlash of sorts from companies concerned about losing business. Several weeks ago, large ads from insurer Direct Line urged consumers to cut out the "middle man", switching websites, and simply go straight to the company for direct quotes.

No surprise that Direct Line doesn't give its data to these middle men, but the campaign thrust – that you don't always get the savings that are flagged on switching sites – will have elicited some sympathy from those consumers who have been disappointed not to make huge cuts to their bills.

For all its letdowns, though, switching is not to be sniffed at, even if the painful experience of one reader shows you can go too far, too fast.

The gentleman in question, from the South Coast, had started off by changing his electricity supplier last February. After making savings of at least £90, he moved on to his gas (£110) and then broadband (£70).

That was just the start: over the past 16 months, he has run a slide rule over everything available – including his mobile phone contract, life cover, bank current account, savings, individual savings account and mortgage – but has ground to a halt with his pension plans.

With at least five different pension pots, including a money-purchase plan (where you build a sum to buy an annuity or income for life), personal pension and three small occupational schemes – including a valuable guaranteed annuity rate – it has proved hard just to up sticks. Specialist advice, even for a fee, will be invaluable.

That's not to deter anybody from switching; just don't expect the instant and easy riches to flow forever.

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