Richard Lloyd: Switch energy firms for satisfaction

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Our latest annual satisfaction survey shows customers still feel they are getting a raw deal from the dominant big energy suppliers, with smaller competitors wiping the floor when it comes to keeping customers happy.

In fact the survey is pretty grim reading for customers of Scotland’s big three: ScottishPower, SSE and Scottish Gas. These three firms who dominate the Scottish energy market have, along with EDF, E.ON and npower throughout Britain, all scored much lower than smaller rivals.

Our survey found big firms with millions of customers are still falling down on the basics of customer service such as dealing with complaints or ensuring bills are accurate and clear. For the fourth year running npower has come bottom with a satisfaction score of just 35 per cent. In fact, the six largest companies, which account for around 90 per cent of the British market, can all be found towards the bottom of our table with none of them scoring above 50 per cent. By contrast, the top spot has been awarded to Ecotricity with a score of 84 per cent, closely followed by Good Energy (82 per cent), Ebico (81 per cent), Ovo Energy (80 per cent), Utility Warehouse (76 per cent) and Flow Energy (73 per cent) – all are smaller independent providers.

Despite recent modest price cuts to standard gas tariffs, Scottish consumers tell us energy prices are their top financial worry with around seven in ten (68 per cent) reporting concern. Customers are right to question whether the price cuts go far enough in response to a significant shift in wholesale prices. Some of the price falls don’t come into effect until the end of February and no doubt energy customers will be questioning why they must wait to see bills cut.

Little wonder then the market is under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. We need this inquiry, which reports at the end of this year, to propose radical remedies to fix this broken market. But in the meantime, instead of waiting for the outcome of the competition inquiry, we are urging firms to make immediate improvements to help restore trust among their long-suffering customers. Our survey suggests the big suppliers need to up their game as their customers deserve better.

If you think you’re missing out on the cheapest deal the best thing to do is explore whether there is a better energy deal for you. Which? Switch is an independent service that searches the market to provide an impartial view of your gas and electricity options, including supplier and tariff ratings to help you decide on service as well as price. Which? is running a Fix the Big Six campaign and has an online petition (www. www.which.co.uk/bigsix) where people can pledge their support to help us fix the broken energy market.

Richard Lloyd is executive director of consumer group Which?