/ Home & Energy

What do you expect from your energy provider?

energy company satisfaction

Good pricing, a decent service or an easy fix when things go wrong? What is it that you value in an energy provider?

The start of spring is only a couple of months away so I’ve begun to work out how long I have left until my dreaded winter energy bill lands on my doorstep.

In truth, this bill would be less loathsome to pay if I felt like I was getting some sort of genuine service and value for money from my provider.

Being a household of two and living in a small property that is less than 40 years old, I don’t consider myself an energy guzzler. Yet I almost always get bill shock whenever I see my bill.

Discovering why it has amounted to so much usually proves problematic. My online account tells me so little that I would have to call my provider to find out, but that would probably mean spending considerable time on hold.

Other than that, I seem to have no contact with my provider unless it wants to flog me some added packaged extra. And while its tariffs aren’t the cheapest, they’re by no means great, either.

So really, it doesn’t feel as though I get much in return from my provider. I shouldn’t put up with it – I should have switched energy supplier and I should have done it long ago.

Getting little satisfaction

Our latest survey of energy companies reveals what nearly 9,000 customers think of their gas and electricity provider. The biggest energy company survey of its kind, it has results for 31 energy firms in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Big Six energy companies don’t fare well. When asked to rate their energy provider, just 32% of customers of the Big Six said they were very satisfied. This compares with 52% customers of medium-sized suppliers and 45% of smaller suppliers.

Customers of medium-sized firms are also most likely to rate their supplier excellent for every measure we surveyed on (compared with the Big Six and small energy companies), including for the clarity and accuracy of their bills, for their phone customer service, and for being excellent value for money.

But smaller firms are hot on their heels. Their customers almost as often rank value for money, bill clarity and online customer service excellent. 

In fact, newcomer and small energy company, Octopus Energy is the only gas and electricity firm to be a Which? Recommended Provider for 2018.

Below par

So what is it that’s so off-putting about some energy providers?

As a customer of a Big Six provider, I’m not necessarily expecting a bells-and-whistles service, rather the knowledge that I’m not overpaying when I could be on one of its better tariffs.

And when I think about it, the relationship I have with my energy provider reminds me of one I had with a former landlord – I never saw or heard from them unless they wanted more money. If something needed fixing it was a nightmare to get it sorted. The end result? We moved out.

Service can be better, I’m sure of it.

What about you? What do you expect from your energy provider? What could it do to improve your satisfaction of its service? Or do you rate your provider highly?

Comments
Member

I am very happy with the service I receive from Ovo. I decided to move from e.on which was kept my account well in credit despite the fact that the house had smart meters, fitted for the previous owners. e.on claim that one of the benefits of smart meters is: “Always receive an accurate bill”. Yes the billing was accurate but the company pushed up my direct debit when this was not necessary. Scottish Power was much worse, once doubling my direct debit when I was in credit and not even sending an email to warn me.

It’s early days with Ovo but I had no problem when they supplied energy to my previous home and I had the confidence to take out a two year fixed contract. When I have called the company the phone has been answered promptly and staff have been helpful.

Member

Providing you take meter readings you can easily do a fairly good calculation of your energy bill. Multiply unit rate by units used for electricity. For gas, multiply cu metres used by 11 to give units, then by unit rate. Add on the standing charge. Not difficult if you want to do it; perhaps Which? could show the way in their magazine.

As far as selecting the best tariff for you, simply use Which?Switch, put in last year’s usage and you’ll get a long list of providers and tariffs from which you can select your preferred. The smaller companies may be cheaper, probably relatively new, and may not all be geared up to give good service but if cost is most important then worth a go. I don’t mind using one of the big 6 if they prove competitive; I’m prepared and able to deal with them if I have any problem. Which? give a % rating for many of them.

The service I expect is simply providing an accurate bill and setting a realistic direct debit.

Member

I would like see unit conversions banned. They only exist to confuse us.

What is wrong with a price for actual units used as they appear on our meters?

Member

That’s fine with electricity, which record consumption in kWh but gas meters record consumption in cubic metres. There is also a conversion factor called the ‘calorific value’ which is used to compensate for possible differences in how much energy is supplied by each cubic metre.

Thanks to metrication we no longer have to cope with the ‘therm’, which is 100,000 British thermal units.

Member

With gas, the calorific value(energy in a given volume of gas) may vary, so simply using the number of cubic meters used (what your meter records) does not tell you the amount of energy (units, kWh) that you have used. It is the energy that matters. So your bill tells you how the volume of gas is converted into energy units. I imagine smart meters should automatically do this calculation using current calorific value from your energy supplier. We don’t have one.

Wait until you are charged half hourly for energy – the rates will vary depending on the time of day, based on demand. How will you work that out? Only using a smart meter – the only real justification I can see for having one.

Member

🤔 If I wasn’t confused before malcolm………. 🙃

So how do they know which figures vary?

Member

My new smart meter display shows the cumulative charges for gas, electricity and both during the day and the figures include the standing charge. There is also a record for the past week, past month and past year. The previous one provided less information and did not take into account the standing charges or display the current meter readings.

Anyone who believes that it is more economical to leave the heating on all the time rather than switching it off at night would benefit from having smart meters.

Apart from the enormous cost of the smart meter roll out, smart meters may lose their functionality if you swap supplier. Mine were replaced a few months ago and I was told they met the new standard but I understand that potentially incompatible smart meters are still being installed because there is a stock of them. Never mind – all the costs will be shared by customers, even those who cannot afford to heat their homes properly. 🙁

Member

I think whether leaving the heating on all the time is beneficial, depends on your property.

For us, it used to work out cheaper to leave it on 24/7 and we didn’t freeze for hours while the place heated up.

But now with a lot of home improvements, it is fine to turn the thermostat down at night and our gas bill is considerably less. The heating will only kick in at night if it gets really cold.

Member

I turn down the thermostat at night too. Sometimes it comes on and sometimes it doesn’t, depending on outside temperature. Where I have left it at daytime temperature overnight, less gas is used the following morning but the overall daily consumption is significantly higher.

It was interesting to see how much the consumption of gas varied during the ten days when I was away over Christmas, when the heating was on low.

Member

The calorific value of gas can vary a little. It is usually near 39.1, but the conversion is there to ensure you pay for actual energy, not just volume of gas. You suppliers bill will still show how many units (kWh) of gas you have been charged for. But, if you want to use a meter reading yourself to work out how much you’ve been using you’ll need to multiply your usage, in cubic meters – what the meter records – since last time by around 11 to convert into units ( kWh).

Member

Remember that converting gas to kWh does not give you a like-for like comparison with electricity costs for heating purposes – unlike electricity, gas is not 100% efficient.

Member

Not only are gas boilers not 100% efficient but a substantial amount of heat is lost pumping hot water round a house. Nevertheless, gas remains a cheaper way of heating than electricity, even using storage radiators running on cheaper electricity.

Member

Oh I agree, gas will always be cheaper than off-peak electricity. Not sure how much you actually lose pumping hot water around, after all it’s hot and in the house, but maybe not in the place you want it. Insulating the pipes helps.

Member

Unfortunately there is not much chance of insulating pipes where they run through walls, as mine do, though I was able to insulate all the pipes in the loft when I lived in a bungalow. Our energy providers could help by referring customers to a decent source of information about how to save fuel. We don’t need them to reinvent the wheel by producing their own information.

Member

A lot depends upon how you route your pipes. My heating pipes are all, virtually, within the rooms, hidden by boxed skirting, so contribute to the heating . Where they run in the loft they are insulated with foam sleeves.

Member

In my previous bungalow which had a solid floor the pipes ran in the loft and I insulated them with thick foam sleeves. In my present home the pipes disappear into the walls, which is neat but presumably loses heat. I have cavity wall insulation and presumably this helps to retain heat in the pipes.

Member
David Sandilands says:
20 January 2018

Sandilands
Alfa, just read your comment!This year I find that I have to keep my heating on 24/7 the building was built in the mid-1800s with tall ceilings, failing to do so would reveal mould on the walls! its a one bedroom apartment, Energy companies, I find, cant understand why I am using a lot of energy. as compared other one bedroom homes. Its a matter of one’s health and well-being, and staying away from Doctors etc.

We all know the struggles at this time with NHS during the winter months.

Member

I agree that it’s essential to put health first. Unless there is a structural problem, dampness and mould will be due to condensation, which happens on the coldest surfaces, which could be single-glazed windows and north-facing walls. Adequate ventilation is important and extractor fans in kitchens (a cooker hood is better) and bathrooms can help. A simple dehumidifier will remove moisture from the air and could be cheaper than leaving the heating on all the time.

Member

I had an interesting and quite a long chat with a surveyor who inspected my house when it was on the market who was convinced most mould is caused by lack of fresh air. I always open my bathroom window after showering but I do have a problem with plumage coming from next doors condenser boiler. I have heard various reports about what is contained in the steam, and I often have to walk through it to enter my front door. I would welcome some advice as it has been quite offensive this winter.

Member

Hi David,

I think we have cured all our mould problems now.

Single and secondary glazing was replaced with double glazing. Mould on a ceiling was caused by no loft insulation above it, no sign since installing insulation.

We have suspended concrete floors that were cold and musty but not damp. They have been sealed with Blackjack (a waterproof membrane) then a layer of latex. If you are on the ground floor in a mid-1800s property, you might have draughty suspended floorboards.

After investigating cavity wall insulation, we decided against it. Outer walls can absorb moisture that then gets absorbed by the insulation and you can end up with a soaking wet sponge between the walls resulting in mould on the internal walls. We just didn’t want to introduce another potential problem.

I am no expert, but if your apartment is on the top floor, damp could be caused by faulty guttering or downpipes, problems with the roof or leaking pipes in the loftspace.

Hanging washing to dry indoors creates moisture in the air so we bought a Mitsubishi MJ-E16V dehumidifier. It has a useful swing louvre vent that moves the air around. The extracted water is limescale-free so can be used in an iron. If your damp problem is just condensation, a dehumidifier could be the answer.

I don’t know if any of my ramblings will help, but stay warm.

Member

That’s a good example of what can be done to deal with damp problems. In my previous home I did not have cavity wall insulation installed because if not done correctly it can cause dampness problems, as Alfa has pointed out. I would have no reservations about houses with cavity wall insulation that has been in for a few years and no problems have emerged, since it does save energy.

Unfortunately, the Conversation about dampness problems was closed down – for good reasons. It would be good to have a new one where advice can be shared. As David has pointed out, dampness is a serious health issue.

Member

Just in case anyone finds my ramblings useful, I missed off radiators.

We had a room with 2 single panel radiators that was always cold. I didn’t believe the plumbers when they said one larger convector radiator at one end would be enough, but it was.

So changing the radiators for better ones might give you more heat.

Member

It’s a pity none of the comparison sites, including Which? , cater for economy 10 users, and finding E10 tariffs, if they exist, isn’t easy on most supplier sites, and much phoning around is required, often fruitlessly as some call centres have no idea what E10 is. I only know of one blog which collates information, and that’s a self-help site.

Member

They don’t take into account collective switching schemes either.

Member

Hi Nick, thanks for your feedback. Indeed, the only ‘time of use tariff’ that you can currently compare on any energy switching site is Economy 7 which is the most common time of use tariff. Not all suppliers offer an Economy 10 tariff and if they do they may not offer them to new customers. Last time we investigated this, we found that there were 10 suppliers who offered an Economy 10 tariff. If people would like to switch their Economy 10 tariff, it’d be worth checking with their preferred supplier directly to see if they do offer a competitive tariff.

Member

To be fair I don’t expect much from my energy supplier, only a low standing charge, (as it’s a large portion of each bill) and low units prices. I expect alot more from OFGEM, who thanks to their hopeless misguided rules allow companies to quote a saving when in fact I’ll be paying more.

Member

Which of Ofgem’s rules has given you this result, william?

Member

If you’re within 12 months of your current fix ending, the savings quoted are allowed to assume the fictitious scenario that you’ll roll over onto the standard variable rate (SVR). So imagine you’re paying £100 a month compared to £120 if you’re on the SVR and you look at switching at month 11 in your 1 year fix, and the new company will be charging you £110 a month, so the’re allowed to quote you a saving of £100. ( that’s £10 down in the 1st month (100-110), but £110 up for the remaining 11 months (120-110) * 11.
So they quote £100 saving yet you’re actually paying more. I’d rather they use the fictitious scenario that I’ll stay on my £100 a month to show £120 loss over the year or at the very least show both scenarios. So OFGEMs rules are allowing companies to keep prices high whilst pulling the wool over consumers eyes.

Member

When I changed my energy supplier I compared prices with a well known switching service and this showed some very substantial savings that could be made by moving to a variety of other suppliers. Switching supplier from on fixed contract to another made very little difference – as I had expected. I’ve now thrown away the printout showing the list of what appeared to be fictitious savings.

Member

I only became aware of this “scam” when I got a bill from my then current supplier suggesting I could save £127.83 by switching and when I rang and got the standing charges and unit prices all were higher than what I was already paying. So call me old fashioned, but not actually a saving.

Member

Perhaps it might be worth reporting the scam to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Member

Having reported many ads/scams to the ASA in the past, I can tell you what their reply will be. “This isn’t something we deal will with.” They’re a complete waste of time and money.

Member

I thought you might say that, William. I presume that the narrow remit of the ASA is being exploited.

Member

William, as this is not an advertising issue it would not fall within the remit of the ASA, in my view. It would be an Ofgem issue. You could report it to them.

If you have a fixed price contract, I don’t know why there is any real need to know what your savings might be up to 12 months before it ends. When mine was drawing to a close the default was to assume you would be placed on a standard variable tariff. My supplier told me what this would cost and also gave me the estimate if I moved to their cheapest fixed term tariff. That seemed reasonable.

Personally, I would abolish all subsidised fixed term tariffs and apply the savings to standard variable tariffs.. By all means have fixed price fixed term tariffs but have them stand on their own feet as regards profitability.

I check my tariffs each year using Which?Switch to decide not only whether to move tariff, but supplier also. Looking at your own bill only will not tell you what other suppliers offer. A small amount of effort could be very rewarding, but it seems many people do not think saving 1 or 2 hundred pounds is worth the bother.

Member

I think you misread my example. It’s projected savings after my fix ends that I feel are wholly misleading.

And I too use which switch and then a cashback site if cashback is on offer.
As to your last point I have 2 elderly neighbours who I’ve been trying to switch for ages, both are on SVRs and both refuse to believe they’re be paying too much. Ah the trusting elderly generation.

Member

Thanks william. It is difficult to understand sometimes why people don’t take advantage of savings, but attitudes to change and its benefits vary.

Member

I was pleased to see that e.on informed me that my fixed term tariff was coming to an end and offered me the alternative of signing up to a new contract or continuing on a standard variable tariff if I did not take action, together with an estimate of costs for the following year in both cases. I don’t know if this is now a requirement for energy suppliers but if not it should be.

Member
R J Braund says:
20 January 2018

My supplier frequently asks me for a meter reading, then I get an email saying my reading has been rejected, with no reason given. I am absolutely certain that on every occasion I have sent a correct reading, and resent being treated in such a rude manner.

Member

When you spoke to them to find out why did you get a sensible explanation?

Member

Just who does provide your energy ? It all comes down the same pipe or cable who ever sends the bill ?

Member

It comes from different sources – wind, solar, gas, nuclear, hydro……different companies buy it in different mixes with different costs. You pay both for the energy (around 38% of an average dual fuel bill) and 26% for network costs.

Member
OldJerimia says:
5 March 2018

On 31st December 2017, my energy account showed a substantial closing credit balance. However, the next statement showed an opening balance on 1st January 2018 which was significantly lower. My energy company has not been able to explain this discrepancy, nor have then been willing to correct their error. Apparently, I must wait 8 weeks before I can complain to the Ombudsman.

Member

Iresa, an energy supplier with less than 100,000 domestic customers, has ceased trading.
The energy supply of Iresa customers will continue as normal, and their outstanding credit balances protected under Ofgem’s safety net.
Ofgem will choose a new supplier to take on Iresa’s customers. This supplier will contact these customers individually when this process is complete.Iresa, an energy supplier with less than 100,000 domestic customers, has ceased trading.

Which? and Ofgem put out warnings about Iresa for some time.

Member

Knowing of the problems with Iresa I wonder how the company looked better than the likes of Npower and and some other companies: https://switch.which.co.uk/energy-suppliers/energy-companies-rated.html `Some of the largest companies need to pull their socks up.

Member

I recently stopped using Isupply. I gave them my final meter reading and paid my final bill. However a month later I got another bill for £50. Thinking this must have been an error I contacted them and they explained it was old amounts owed for the prior year, so I paid it. Five months later I got another set of emails for more money which I ignored till they said they had doubled the amount and were going to send the debtors in. I called again and asked what would stop them from extorting money from me. Their explanation for the new £30 charge was the one day between the final bill and me starting with my new supplier (my entire month’s charges were usually £47). Scary. Don’t use them!

Member

The energy companies are sometimes criticised here for holding onto account balances when the customer is in credit; particularly the big suppliers. Well, I’m with npower and they recently reduced the monthly payment on one of my accounts. Using less energy than predicted. When I looked at my bank statement today I found a credit from npower of £78, and when checking my energy account found it to be a rebate because of excess payment. All credit to npower (and credit to me!) for doing this automatically. A shame, as one fixed-price account with them comes to an end next month and they are no longer competitive.