Around 40% of consumers have never switched their electricity or gas supplier, according to new research by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU).

However, the survey reveals that more households switched last year when compared to 2019.

49% switched their electricity supplier last year, up from 42% in 2019; while 54% switched their gas supplier, up from 44% in 2019.

The data shows that 19% of electricity customers and 20% of gas customers switched in the 12 month period prior to the research being carried out last May-July.

The main driver for switching was money saving opportunities.

The research also reveals that consumers are finding it easier to compare offers, with more people to turning to price comparison websites to get the best deal.

41% of consumers used a comparison website to switch electricity provider last year, up from 34% in 2019; while 45% used such a website to switch gas supplier, up from 42%.

Meanwhile, the research suggests that more consumers are now reading at least some part of their bills.

47% of domestic electricity customers said they now open their bill and read it in detail, compared to just 40% in 2020.

The survey also shows the pandemic had an impact on household ability to pay, with 12% of electricity and 21% of gas customers indicating their ability to pay bills had been negatively impacted, up from 12% and 15% respectively the previous year.

43% of all energy users were concerned about increased energy usage and impact on bills

The CRU said the objective of the annual survey is to gather customer views and experiences on how they are benefitting from competition in the market.

Approximately 200 residential customers and 650 SMEs participated.

The study shows that the proportion of customers interested in getting a smart meter remains positive, at 78% for domestic electricity customers and 86% for domestic gas customers.

65% of SMEs said they would be interested in getting a smart metre for electricity, and 73% for gas.

"While switching rates have remained steady, with recent price increases across all suppliers, now is the time to be an active consumer and negotiate or switch your supplier to make sure you're getting the best deal possible," said Aoife MacEvilly, CRU Commissioner with responsibility for the retail sector.

"In addition, customers who may be vulnerable due to advancing age, disability, or illness are encouraged to avail of additional protections by contacting their energy supplier to register on their priority and/or special services register," she added.

Additional reporting from Joe Mag Raollaigh