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Would you switch to a smaller energy provider?

Customers of medium or smaller energy providers are more satisfied overall than those with the ‘Big Six’. Should you switch to a smaller provider?

A quarter of us are now customers of energy firms which aren’t the original ‘Big Six’. Some of these newer and smaller firms offer fantastic service, while a few are seriously letting customers down.

The recently-published results of our annual energy companies satisfaction survey revealed the best energy firms, according to their customers, as well as the ones to avoid. (Full results for Northern Ireland can be found here.)

Top scorers

The top-scorers were Octopus Energy, Ebico, Robin Hood Energy, So Energy and Tonik Energy. The worst supplier overall was Solarplicity. Spark Energy was the second-lowest ranked.

What do all of these have in common? They’re new, relatively small (at least in comparison to the Big Six), energy firms. A couple are not-for-profit. A couple sell only 100% renewable electricity.

Overall, we found that customers of medium or smaller energy providers are more satisfied with them, and rate them better on everything from customer service to bills to value for money, than customers of the Big Six.

Which? Switch: compare gas and electricity prices

But it’s not as simple as switching from the Big Six to get better service or prices.

Smaller suppliers are streets apart in how well they serve their customers: some are top of our rankings, others are seriously letting their customers down. Plus several have gone bust, and many have raised their prices. So choosing a supplier can feel a bit of a minefield at the moment.

Downsizing

Over the last four years, I have been a customer of four different gas and electricity suppliers. I’ve tried Big Six, medium-sized, and most-recently a smaller, newer market entrant.

My current, smaller, supplier doesn’t offer a breakdown of my energy usage via an online account, unlike my previous supplier. Perhaps it’s too new to have built this, undoubtedly expensive, feature yet.

But I never actually saw the fancy offering from my previous supplier: it wasn’t able to fix my online account login issues in the six months I spent as a customer.

It also doesn’t have answers to any question you might have on its website, ready and waiting for when you need help at 11pm on a Sunday.

Simple things

But what it does do is respond to my emails (usually within a day), answer my questions precisely and does what it says it’s going to do.

These are simple and basic things but mean I feel friendly towards my supplier, rather than frustrated.

Revealed: the fastest energy firms to answer the phone

Plus I’m never in doubt that my bills are accurate or worried that I’ll have to pay more than I expect. It prompts me to send meter readings every month, and gives me a few days warning before it takes my direct debit.

I can enter my meter readings online (no more using up my minutes phoning in my meter readings). Again, simple things, but certainly reassuring.

I can’t promise I’ll stick with my smaller supplier for the long-term but, for the moment, what it lacks in fancy features it more than makes up for in getting the basics spot-on.

Have you switched to a smaller energy company? What differences have you noticed? What do you like about its service and what do you miss?

Comments
Member

We are with Tonik Energy, been with them for more than two years and have had absolutely no problems, every month on the same date, I get a request to give my meter readings, via email, I read the meters and enter the numbers via the link in the email, very simple and a little while later I have an update of my account. My monthly Direct debit went down last year at renewal. What I like most of all, is that all the electricity they supply is 100% sustainable from energy producing farms. Thanks, Tonik.

Member
Paul Coulson says:
3 February 2019

I have already tried two smaller companies: GB Energy went bust and I am still fighting with Solarplicity four months after I left them for near doubling thier rates, for the return of the credit balance on my account which they had overcharged.

Member

I was with GB Energy when they went bust i moved to coop energy who kept the same price until the end of the contract

Member
Robert Palmer says:
3 February 2019

I am with Ovo. A few years ago I was very pleased with the company. Alas to-day I am disillusioned by their sheet incompetence. I would not recommend the company.

Member
Wendy Eagling says:
3 February 2019

I have been with Good Energy for two, perhaps three years now. I am in my eighties and one of my meters is in a really difficult position for me to read. However, I can take a photos on my i-pad and email it to the company. I receive an acknowledgement soon after and Good Energy sort it all out, with a friendly email. I commend the company to you.

Member
paul says:
3 February 2019

Good Energy seems like the best option because it Is renewables based , no pretence that nuke is clean, which is my main criterion. Which ought to muddy its consumer satisfaction fetish with some ethical criteria. I agree Good Energy customer service can be a weak link sometimes but what price our Planet and future generations?

Member
DennisBoot says:
4 February 2019

Be careful with good energy they took over my account without my consent, said they would sort it , they did and turn it Ito a con , very very untrustworthy . Wouldn’t trust them witha torch . .

Member
Gladys Cloke says:
3 February 2019

i RECENTLY TRIED TO SWITCH TO A SMALL COMPANY BUT COULD NOT GET MY wINTER HELP, iM AN O A P. SO ITS IMPORTANT. IM NOW WITH FIRST UTILITY.

Member

If you are referring to the Winter Fuel Payment, there are contact details on this page: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/how-to-claim

This payment has nothing to do with your energy supplier.

Member

Probably means the Warm Home Discount, a scheme only available from certain suppliers? The Winter fuel payment is generally available for all over 65:
“Eligibility
You qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if both the following apply:
• you were born on or before 5 November 1953
• you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 17 to 23 September 2018 – this is called the ‘qualifying week’
If you did not live in the UK during the qualifying week, you might still get the payment if both the following apply:
• you live in Switzerland or a European Economic Area (EEA) country
• you have a genuine link with the UK social security system, such as having lived or worked in the UK for most of your life
You can not get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK.
You may still be able to get Cold Weather Payment or the Warm Home Discount Scheme, even if you do not qualify for Winter Fuel Payment.
When you will not qualify
You will not qualify if you:
• are in hospital getting free treatment for more than a year
• need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave states that you can not claim public funds
• were in prison for the whole week between 17 to 23 September 2018
• lived in a care home for the whole time between 25 June and 17 September 2018, and got Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance

Member

Similar to David Marks comments I joined Tonik Energy just over a year ago and have just renewed with them, previously I was with Co-Op energy who were quite good and before that SSE (terrible) British Gas (terrible). Tonik’s customer service is excellent, supplying gas and electric readings is easy and getting an updated account within 24 hrs is great. Their product pricing is very competitive.

Member
June Pidgeon says:
3 February 2019

I had difficulty (I am 92) in reading my meter and sent in a wrong figure (too high). To make life easier for me I had a smart meter fixed and Tonik immediately, with correct readings, were able to put my account in order and I am now “trouble free”! Haven’t been with them a year yet but on present figures I am saving money. HA highly satisfied customer!

Member
Chris Dixon says:
3 February 2019

I was with GB Energy, they were great customer service answered the phone and solved any queries, then… They went bust and I was transferred to the Co-op. I had no problems with the Co-op but switched away for a cheaper deal at the end of my fix. Several other companies have gone bust since GB Energy, so I have steered clear of smaller companies.

Member
Vicki D says:
3 February 2019

Was with extra energy until they went bust. Contacted by Scottish Power who were given the accounts by Ofgem. Had an email on 25/11/18 advising that extra energy were no longer trading and explaining that they were now supplying my energy (Scottish Power). The email advised that as soon as my account had been transferred in full I would be able to compare my offering. To date I still have not had sight of my account despite receiving an email on 29/11/18 advising that this should be possible within the next 3 – 4 weeks. I received another email on 02/12/18 again advising that I would have sight of my account again within 3 – 4 weeks. I emailed them on 19/01/19 asking them for information and eventually received an email in reply advising they would reply within 5 working days. Finally on 26/01/19 I received an email advising the they would be in contact with these details once everything had been sorted out and that this may take some time. Are they aware that it is now 2019 and that with computerisation it should take take no time at all. Whilst I have had this problem because a small energy supplier has folded it would not put me off using one again. Really easy to deal with on every level unlike this bunch of idiots.

Member

It’s bad enough to have your energy supplier go bust but not to have any say in which company takes over your supply seems wrong to me, Vicki. I hope that Scottish Power will waive their exit fees or you could have to pay £60 to move a dual fuel account and choose your own supplier.

Perhaps Which? could push for exit fees to be waived whenever accounts are transferred to another company when the original company fails.

Member

Do you know that Ofgem has authorised SP to take over failed power supply companies in the UK Wavechange ?
As such special contracted arrangements were made , so Which ? will need to check into the said contract rather than standard legislation.
Though it looks like they will be okay (but read the default tariff ) .-quote-

“Our advice for customers of Extra Energy is to wait until Scottish Power contacts you. They will give you more information about the tariff you are on, and about your credit balance if you have one. Once the transfer has been completed you can shop around for a better deal if you wish to.”

Scottish Power will honour any outstanding credit balances from Extra Energy customers, which includes money owed to former or existing customers whether they are domestic or business.

Customers were told to “sit tight” by Pickford while the energy supplies are transferred. They were also advised to take a meter reading as soon as possible in case of later billing disputes.

Those that are transferred will be immediately placed on the ‘deemed’ or, ‘default’ tariff, which is likely to be expensive.

Customers have been advised not to switch supplier until the transfer has been completed, and wait for the company to contact them before taking action.

However, this tariff will not have an exit fee, and so once the transfer from Extra Energy to Scottish Power is complete, customers will be able to find another deal without facing any extra costs.

Member

I knew that Scottish Power is taking over accounts from Extra energy but it would not be fair on other companies to let SP do this if other companies fail. I don’t know why Ofgem should choose a company with such a poor reputation: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/energy-companies/article/big-six-reviews/scottish-power

Thanks for the information about customers being advised that they can shop around after the transfer and not face exit fees.

Member

When an energy company fails Ofgem invites other companies to bid for the accounts, so it has not made a standing arrangement with Scottish Power. In each instance there will be a judgment about capacity, tariffs, and customer service as well as other commercial considerations.

It has been pointed out that some of the companies appointed to take over failed companies’ customers are themselves the subject of ongoing investigations by Ofgem. The number of accounts to be transferred is an important issue because the smaller companies, even if they are performing well, might not be able to absorb efficiently a similar-sized [or larger] customer base so the take-over options are limited. Taking on a second billing and customer service operation in a different location could be difficult and make ultimate integration expensive if consolidation meant that new premises, new IT systems, harmonisation training, and redundancies, were necessary.

The point might now have been reached where the better companies might prefer to grow organically rather than have a shed load of new customers [including many creditors] heaped on top of them so Ofgem might struggle to find new berths for displaced accounts in future.

British Gas probably wouldn’t mind having a lot of new customers to replace the hundreds of thousands that they have lost over the last year but I suspect many wouldn’t stay for long, and churn is expensive.

Member

I’d like to see transparency in action, John. I wonder why Ofgem has supported SP, a company that has let down many customers including myself.

Member

I expect it was because Ofgem did not look under the bonnet and took SP’s words at face value. The kernel of their justification was that they “received assurances . . .”.

Member

Maybe, John. Ofgem does not even have to have a subscription for Which? to discover that not all is well: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/energy-companies/article/big-six-reviews/scottish-power

Member

For those interested this is Ofgem’s statement on making Scottish Power the supplier of last resort when Extra Energy failed. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2019/01/decision_letter_scottish_power_17012019.pdf

Member

I read this letter after Duncan posted his reply, Malcolm. We are not told which companies made a bid to take over the customers of Extra Energy. Many are very unhappy with the ‘Big six’ energy companies and it might have been better to give the customers to a smaller company that is financially viable – assuming that they are interested.

Member

Ofgem explain their reasoning, including taking bids from volunteering providers seemingly to get the best deal for the affected customers. Co-op have been used in the past, also Octopus, Dirst Utility so other than the Big 6 are used. A customer is under no obligation to stay with the nominated supplier if they can find a better deal or have a preferred supplier. I am with Scottish Power and so far my experience has been quite acceptable. Time will tell.

“Ofgem Supplier of Last Resort Selection Framework
Ofgem’s principal objective is to protect current and future energy consumers. In the context of a supplier failure, our priority is to ensure that all customers continue to receive supplies of electricity and gas and to provide a safety net to protect domestic consumers’ credit balances. As such, our preference is to appoint a Supplier of Last Resort who has agreed to honour credit balances for both existing and former customers of the failed supplier.

Through our supplier of last resort (SoLR) powers, we can direct any gas or electricity supply licensee to take over responsibility for a supplier’s customers (i.e. to be a SoLR) after revocation of the failed supplier’s licence.

In considering which supplier to direct in this way, we must be satisfied that the SoLR could supply the additional customers without significantly prejudicing its ability to continue to supply its existing customers and to fulfil its contractual obligations for the supply of gas or electricity. We would always prefer to appoint a SoLR that had consented to the role. However, if no suitable supplier wants to be a SoLR, we will consider using our powers to direct a supplier without its consent. The framework set out in this document provides information to potential SoLRs on the factors that Ofgem will consider in reaching a decision on appointing a SoLR.

The framework sets out the issues Ofgem will consider and a judgement will be made looking
across all the criteria and other relevant information.

Member

As I said, I did read the letter and I’m aware of what has happened when other companies have failed. We are not told which companies Ofgem invited to submit bids or which ones offered to do so. Ofgem is well aware of the widespread criticism of the ‘Big six’ providers.

Member

Others might be interested in how the supplier of last resort system works.

Member

Thank you for reproducing Ofgem’s letter, Malcolm. I had read about their process previously in general terms but could not immediately find it, and the Phillipa Pickford letter was specific to this particular appointment of Scottish Power as supplier of last resort to Extra Energy’s customers

I noticed in Ofgem’s letter that “bidders put forward a range of solutions to “onboard” Extra Energy’s customers, and we closely assessed each of these. Scottish Power provided a strong bid that included assurances on getting in touch with customers in a timely way“. Unfortunately that has not been Vicki D’s experience and it is possible that SP does not have adequate capacity to manage the take-over and enable customers to quickly choose an alternative supplier if they wish to. I hope Ofgem is prodding SP to expedite contact with their new customers.

I also noted that Ofgem can request any licensed energy supplier to take on the customers of a failed company irrespective of whether they are interested in doing so, but the Regulator clearly recognises that it is better if the supplier of last resort is a willing participant because a second failure would undermine confidence in the industry which is one of the outcomes that Ofgem strives to avoid. Whether it will ever come down to compulsion will be interesting to see.

Member
Member

Thanks, Duncan. It shows what a minefield the whole question of under-resourced or un-resilient suppliers being admitted to the market has given rise to. Ofgem needs to set the bar higher in future. Competition is necessary but should not be paramount if it causes chaos within the industry.

Member

Extra Energy were in financial trouble a couple of years before the company failed. Perhaps Ofgem could have taken action sooner and given customers some choice about future supplier.

Member

Reading through webpages on this Wavechange -OFGEM are not “allowed ” to interfere in the running of a company , you need to scroll through a lot of non relevant info to get to the actual relevant bits.

Its said in a round about way to conform to HMG,s insistence on reducing government legislation limiting the actions of commercial enterprises .

While the USA has a more “interfering ” policy.

Member

I fear that the interests of business are considered more important than those of the citizens of this country.

Member

It seems to be no part of Ofgem’s policy to allow customers to have any say in the choice of a replacement supplier. They are free to switch without penalty as soon as the transfer has completed, but there is a problem if the new supplier – as in SP’s case, seemingly, with the Extra Energy customers – is not up to speed with the transfer and management of the new customer base. I have not seen it ruled out that customers may also switch while the transfer is being set up, although there might be a risk that an exit penalty is payable and that credits are withheld. Dealing with a company in insolvency is not recommended as the Ofgem safety net will not be in place.

Contrary to what has been said, as one of its ‘last resort’ powers Ofgem can apply to the Court for authority to appoint an administrator to take control of an energy supplier’s operations. However, it’s first preference is a trade sale, and if that is not feasible then its next preference is the appointment of a “supplier of last resort” after consideration of expressions of interest and the provision of detailed capability information. It can also directly appoint a “supplier of last resort” without prior consultation.

Up to now, so far as I am aware, Ofgem has only ever arranged transfers to volunteering suppliers through a bidding process following the invitation of expressions of interest.

Recent developments call into question the rigour of the bidding and selection process.

Member

My view is that the interests of the consumer should take priority, and I’m not convinced that this has happened in the case of Extra Energy.

Member

It is possible that providing a consumer preference approach is impractical within the timescales of a commercial failure, and that Ofgem’s policy is broadly supportive of the wider consumer interest by (a) maintaining stability of supply, (b) placing a safety net under the transfer process to protect transferring customers’ credits and avoid exit penalties, and (c) ensuring that the existing customers of the receiving supplier suffer no detriment. Customer choices for alternative suppliers depend on speedy execution of the transfer and, with hindsight, it might prove that the assurances accepted by Ofgem as to Scottish Power’s capacity and capability were unsubstantiated.

Member

I agree that the first priority most customers would expect would be protection of their credit balance. Arranging a transfer to accomplish this and then giving the customer the freedom to select their supplier seems a reasonable approach.

Member

Presumably Extra Energy found the means to survive those two years. I don’t suppose we’d welcome businesses being closed down by officialdom if they may overcome their difficulties – particularly the citizens who are employed by them and the citizens who invest in them.

Ofgem’s job is to revise the regulations to help ensure those who enter the energy msrket have the tools and finances to support their business propetly.

Worth noting that at least two of these energy companies are owned by local authorities who are using council tax payers’ money to save them from possible insolvency.

Member
Dennis Boot says:
4 February 2019

I went to Avro last year , after search for days , nothing could beat their prices ,and very simple system, it runs out in March , still cannot fine anyone to beat their simple straight foreword deal, with no punishment payment if you want to leave them , I’m a pensioner and being straight and simple make life a lot easier . So it seems AVRO ENERGY WILL BE MY ENERGY COMPANY FOR THR NEXT 12 months.

Member
A.Mac says:
4 February 2019

Not sure about Avro. It cant read the smart meter I had fitted when I was with First Utility, nor did they provide a usage statement after I had been with them for a year. I did renew and find I’am paying too much each month- according to their figures. They said I was £225 in credit. so I asked for a reduction in my monthly payment and /or some cash back. That was in December. I got a reply on the 8th Jan saying I was getting £151 back no signs of it yet.
Don’t try phoning them I give up each time after 12 minutes hanging on.

Member
GreyCynic says:
18 February 2019

The meter issue can happen. I talked to the technician who fitted a smart meter in my mother’s flat. He told me that the early smart meters were tied to individual suppliers but that the current generation can be switched between suppliers although some may need a technician to visit to reset an internal parameter.

I’m with Avro. When I noted that I had built up a credit balance of £300 I phoned (20 minute wait so I don’t think I’ll do that again). The operator said that they would get my direct debit reassessed by the accounts team and that I would be contacted within a fortnight. Sure enough, around two weeks later I got an email saying my DD was being reduced by £50. The credit balance is now down to £151, which looks to be about right for this time of year.

Member
Richard Saunders says:
5 February 2019

I switched to Brilliant Energy in April 2018 because it was the cheapest available. However they have just emailed me saying “To allow us to save you costs with immediate effect we would like to switch you to http://www.northumbriaenergy.co.uk“. In fact the Northumbria deal is MORE EXPENSIVE and entails paying by direct debit, which I do not want to do. They also say “If we don’t hear back from you in the next 2 weeks we will enable the switch to the new provider ourselves by 3rd March 2019 at the latest.”

Member

PS I wonder if Brilliant Energy wanted to get rid of me because I recently told them I didn’t want a smart meter?

Member

How odd. Did they not give an explanation of why they no longer wanted your custom, Richard?

“Smart meters will be rolled out as standard across the country by the end of 2020. But there is no legal obligation on you to have one.” That’s from this government document: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/smart-meters-how-they-work

The suppliers don’t seem good at saying that no-one is obliged to have smart meters.

The government document has a rather misleading statement: “smart meters will bring an end to estimated billing – you will only be billed for the energy you actually use, helping you budget better” That’s correct but fails to point out that if you pay by direct debit you could be charged for more than you use, resulting in a large credit balance, as many did before smart meters arrived.

I suggest you compare prices with Which? Switch or other service as soon as possible. You can choose to use the service or make your own arrangements with the new company, which saves a fee that you don’t pay yourself but would be shared by all customers.

Member

Richard, these companies appear not to be unrelated. They have the same secretary according to Companies House. Sounds a bit suspicious. I’d suggest a report to Ofgem.

Member

There are various references online, for example: https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5958476

I am disappointed that Ofgem does not seem to have made a statement.

Member

Looking at the information about companies, as Malcolm has done here, often shows the same name(s) of people that have been involved with various companies in related businesses. This article refers to a failed energy company founded by a serial entrepreneur: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/business/business-news/newcastle-energy-supplier-future-energy-14201162 He has recently resigned as secretary of Northumbria Energy. It’s interesting to read which companies he has been involved with.

Last year it was reported that Ofgem would be looking at the fitness of small companies to act as energy suppliers: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2018/06/ofgem-poised-to-tighten-up-on-smaller-energy-companies/ I think we should go further and look at the fitness of Ofgem to do its job, and maybe have a look at the performance of other regulators too.

Member

Thank you everyone for your helpful responses to my comment about Brilliant Energy. Their message said, in part:

“We would like to let you know that Brilliant Energy is going to become part of a network of energy companies teaming up to share their knowledge, resources and technology. With this collaboration, we are then able to reduce our costs and pass the savings onto you! This means that you may enjoy reduced tariffs alongside quality customer service that spreads across multiple platforms. To allow us to save you costs with immediate effect we would like to switch you to http://www.northumbriaenergy.co.uk

As I said, it’s actually more expensive! To be fair, they did point out that I could switch to another supplier myself at no cost, which is what I intend to do. I just wondered if anyone else has received a similar message from them.

Member
J. Williams says:
6 February 2019

Been with Octopus energy for a couple of years now, customer service is fine..although like most companies they prefere email enquiries…we are due for renewal this month so will prob be sticking with them.

Member
Benito Moria says:
6 February 2019

Hello Support Team,

Thank you for your survey, very informative! I am already with one of the smaller suppliers and would consider switching again, however, the number of smaller suppliers going into administration is of serious concern! I think our energy regulator is seriously complacent when it comes to licencing energy suppliers!

Member

Everyone including Which? have been asking for more competition in energy supply. We now have far too many companies, some of whom I expect are out to make a short term killing and then disappear leaving the rest of us the bear the costs.

You are right. Ofgem should have been, and must be, much more careful in to whom they award licences to supply energy. Who knows what pressure the Government put on them to “open up” the market? They are now looking at more stringent requirements, particularly financial resources, but this seemingly cannot be retrospective.

Member

Should councils risk our money on commercial ventures at which they are amateurs? Bristol City run an energy company that loses money, Nottingham City are responsible for Robin Hood Energy that is approaching its third bailout– so subsidised energy – and it seems it is also a “white label” supplier to 6 other cities and boroughs from Liverpool to Islington. Edinburgh’s “not for profit” supplier Our Power owes the Scottish govt. ££9.5m. Living up to its objectives, then. Nicola Sturgeon was all for establishing a government energy supplier but sensibly is abandoning the notion. See PEYE no 1489.

I wonder why it was thought worthwhile for 70 companies to be in the business of retailing energy. I assume they all had a plan to make money out of we customers, but with all those scattered overheads I doubt it was really about true competition; more likely tricky ways of making money before the bubble burst. Time that Ofgem pruned it back to much more sensible proportions.

Member

Properly managed, there are massive economies in scale. Fragmenting the energy supply industry [as with the railways] has led to considerable inefficiencies and irrecoverable extra costs. Left almost to their own devices (!), the mobile telecoms and broadband markets have consolidated into a handful of operators. Fit-for-purpose regulation is the key to effective competition.

Member
Dick says:
8 February 2019

What I don’t quite understand is why the standing change varies from company to company.
Should it not be the same across the board. If they are the collector for the companies who own the understructure. We should all be paying the same contributing to the costs or on the amount we use.
Very odd to me.

Member

It’s often claimed that the standing charge represents fixed costs, but that’s nonsense. The standing charge for electricity and gas are often the same, which is a remarkable coincidence if true. It might represent an average fixed cost but I’m not sure about that.

Member
DerekP says:
8 February 2019

Retailers have the option of using zero standing charges and higher unit costs – but not many opt to do this.

The only two that I know of are Ebico Zero and Utilita Smart Energy.

Member

An average dual fuel bill is made up of the following % charges:
Wholesale fuel 36.2%
Network (distribution) 25.4%
Environmental / Social obligations 9.8%
Operating 18.2%
Other direct 1.2%
VAT 4.8%
Pre tax margin 4.4%
It would be useful if Ofgem set out which of these charges should be included in the standing charge. Clearly the first two are variables, depending on your usage.

However, I’d suggest it is the total annual cost that matters to consumers. Inputting your annual usage (Which?Switch for example) estimates this and that is the figure I use when deciding on a supplier. There are plenty to choose from so I really do not see it matters in
practice. If you use very little energy then your best choice may be a supplier with no standing charge – but a higher unit price; the fixed costs are recovered in the unit charge of course and this may well benefit a particular group of customers on limited means and usage.

My standing charge, on a decent deal as far as unit prices go, is less than 10% of my bill so don’t see it as an issue in practice.

Member

Over the last five or six years my account with three different suppliers has somehow gone into arrears. The latest, with Flow Energy, arose because although they said that they had made arrangements to increase my direct debit they had not. Is this a sneaky way of making it difficult to switch?

Member

This need not be a problem, Andrew. Here is the official advice: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/household-gas-and-electricity-guide/how-switch-energy-supplier-and-shop-better-deal/how-switch-energy-supplier-if-you-re-debt It’s worth looking at the advice offered by the company you are planning to switch to and giving them a call. I have generally had the opposite problem and had to take action to stop companies pushing up my direct debit when I was well in credit.

Member

If you send your meter readings every month then your supplier should adjust your direct debit accordingly. I doubt it is in any energy suppliers interests to continue to undercharge a customer. They need your money.

Member

I switched with Which? last September to Enstroga Energy. Since then I’ve had no monthly bills and only one request for a meter reading. The direct debits are being taken from my account every month. They do not reply to emails. I have now begun the process of making a complaint to the ombudsmen, but I have to give the company 8 weeks to respond to my letter before I can proceed further…

Member
DerekP says:
16 February 2019

My commiserations.

I also recently attempted to switch both gaz and leccy to them from Scottish Power, again via Switch With Witch.

It turned out that, after offering to take me on, they couldn’t actually supply gas to my house. Sorting that out required many attempts to call them until I eventually go through. We then agreed they’d keep the leccy for the remainder of the year and reduce my DD accordingly.

Meanwhile Scottish Power provided a nice quote for another year of gaz (as the supply had remained with them).

I also found that, whilst Enstroga might promise to call back, if they’re too busy to take a call, then never do.

All that might indicate that they’re very short staffed because they’re about to go bust, but we’ll see…

Member

I also suspect that Enstroga is in trouble, but let’s see what happens if it gets to the ombudsmen involvement. Actually I wonder if this isn’t already happening, considering all the negative reviews I have read online…