Helping you find the best energy suppliers
Smaller, newer suppliers are the best energy companies according to consumers, Which? has revealed, with all of the Big Six sitting lower in the rankings and more small firms rated as the worst.
These findings suggest a change in consumer appetite and a growing satisfaction with up-and-coming energy suppliers. Brand reputation and company size don’t necessarily correlate with performance, and many small energy firms are providing more of what consumers want, whether that’s cheaper deals, clarity and accuracy in their energy bills or better customer service.
Surveying nearly 8,000 energy customers from 30 energy companies in England, Scotland and Wales, Which? has confirmed the companies that are reported to provide the best value for money and highest quality service.
In the survey, energy customers were asked to vote about their supplier based on:
The main concern for most respondents was how much they would be paying for gas and electricity, with customer satisfaction coming in second. Whilst money was the most important factor, guaranteeing a stress-free experience with all-round better customer service was also significant.
Top-rated providers also scored highly for accuracy and clarity of bills, reflecting increasingly savvy consumers who are interested in improving energy efficiency and better understanding their energy bills in order to make savings.
Topping the table as the best energy company for 2019 was Octopus Energy, with a customer score of 80% and five stars across the board for all criteria. Having launched in 2016, this is a relatively new but fast-growing company with over 1.35 million domestic and business customers at the end of 2019.
Intending to break the mould by establishing new values for the 21st century energy supplier, this firm has designed its model to make their customers’ lives better and look after the planet at the same time. They deliver transparent pricing that passes on savings to their customers and use 100% renewable electricity on their tariffs.
“Good, reliable, straightforward company to deal with,” said one Octopus Energy customer, and: “They are competitively priced while maintaining excellent customer service and a simple to use website,” said another.
The UK’s first local authority-owned energy company, Robin Hood Energy is a not-for-profit that keeps its prices low. Set up by Nottingham City Council as a competitor to the Big Six, Robin Hood Energy only sells tariffs with 100% renewable electricity and is an example of a firm trying to do things differently.
Robin Hood Energy received five-stars for value for money, with 48% rating it as excellent for this. One customer said: “Cheapest prices I was able to find. Cut my energy costs considerably.”
Similarly taking steps to shake up the energy industry is award-winning renewable energy supplier, So Energy. They encourage their customers to vote on which green electricity they use, whether that is solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric or tidal generators. With just one fixed-rate tariff offered at a time, So Energy promises simplicity.
Their performance rating included five stars for bill accuracy and online customer service, and an incredible 93% of customers rated their value for money as good or excellent.
“No issues, the cheapest tariff on comparison and it uses green electricity only,” reported one So Energy customer. “At the time I switched they were cheapest by a distance,” said another.
Ebico, a not-for-profit on a mission is to help those affected by fuel poverty, achieved five stars for value for money and online customer service. Their Zero tariff is one of the few with no standing charge, meaning customers are only charged for the energy they use.
Customer feedback included: “Ebico were the only supplier who had tariffs without a standing charge and were cheaper than my previous supplier.”
Matching Ebico’s score, Tonik Energy invites customers to be part of the clean energy revolution. The company’s ambition is to help customers produce their own green energy in order to halve their bills by 2022. They were rated five stars for bill accuracy, bill clarity, online customer service and value for money.
“All looks good on the bills and is clear to understand,” said one Tonik customer. “So far, their service has been prompt and accurate,” said another.
OVO Energy was ranked sixth with a customer score of 74%. Following closely was last year’s first place, Utility Warehouse, which dropped to seventh position with a customer score of 73%. Rounding out the top 10 were Bristol Energy, Bulb Energy and Ecotricity sharing eighth position, each scoring 72%.
Out of sight at the top of the leaderboard were the energy industry’s most well-known brands, often referred to as the Big Six. None made it into the top 20 and all achieved customer scores lower than 60%.
SSE was the highest ranking of the Big Six, coming in at 22nd out of 30 with a customer score of 58%. One of the UK’s largest energy suppliers, and the largest generator from renewable sources, SSE was given four stars for customer service, both on the phone and online, and for complaints handling. All other categories got three stars.
A dissatisfied customer said: “Since we had a smart meter installed prices have gone up, and we have not received the benefit of saving money we were promised.”
EDF Energy and E.ON both scored three stars across the board. British Gas came in next with 56%, placing them 26th in the table with a mix of two stars and three stars. Coming in joint last place out of the Big Six were Npower and Scottish Power, scoring 54% each.
Npower supplies more than 4.5 million domestic and business customers, but size isn’t everything. They were rated just two stars by their customers for all criteria. This isn’t the first year Npower has rated poorly, they are often bottom of the table.
One customer criticised price hikes: “They said they could save me money but this will be the third price increase since I joined them.”
Matching their low score, Scottish Power were rated with a mix of two and three stars across the six categories.
Complaints handling appears to be a particular problem, with one customer saying: “I was not listened to and ended up having to write to the chairman to get it sorted out.”
Whilst some people may worry that switching energy supplier could leave them suffering with poorer customer service, these survey results tell a different story. None of the Big Six were rated five stars for any criteria. In contrast, lots of smaller, newer firms excelled in customer service and scored highly amongst the other categories too.
Finances was an important factor, and none of the Big Six being rated higher than three stars for value for money. Of Big Six customers, 59% rated their value for money as good or excellent. This is poor in comparison to 72% of medium firms’ customers, and neither compete with an impressive 81% of small firms’ customers rating their supplier as good or excellent value for money.
Below Npower and Scottish Power were the two worst rated energy companies, Spark Energy with a customer score of 52% and Solarplicity with just 44%.
In second-to-last place, Spark Energy was rated two stars for all criteria except value for money, which won them three stars. One fifth of customers rated its bill clarity as poor or very poor, and one stated: “Very hard to work out what you are paying for.”
Lowest ranked Solarplicity has since ceased trading and its customers are now served by EDF Energy.
With four one-star ratings, Solarplicity’s biggest failing seemed to be customer service, with one third of customers saying they had a problem with customer service in the past two years and nearly half ranking its customer service as poor or very poor.
You can see the tables of the best and worst performers below. How does your current energy supplier measure up?
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