The energy market has changed drastically in the past year. What does this mean for your energy bills and can you still switch tariff?
Until summer 2021, if you were on an out-of-contract energy tariff you could have saved money by switching supplier, especially if you’d never switched or you hadn’t switched for a while.
But after wholesale gas prices increased to record levels in September 2021 and wholesale electricity prices followed, largely because of the amount of electricity produced by gas-fired power stations, everything changed. The war in Ukraine then made the situation a whole lot worse.
With prices rising even further from 1 October, the government was forced to step in. On 8 September it announced that the price cap will be set at £2,500 for a typical household for the next two years under its energy price guarantee. This equates to an average unit price for dual fuel customers paying by direct debit of 34p/kWh for electricity and 10.3p/kWh for gas, inclusive of VAT, from 1 October. This means there are no longer any new fixed tariffs available and you can’t save by switching supplier.
In July 2022, we teamed up with YouGov to survey 2,051 people across Great Britain and find out what they thought of their providers. We asked them whether they would recommend them to a friend and how happy they were with their customer service, value for money and bills. We also asked them about the service they got when they contacted their suppliers.
Octopus Energy, Utility Warehouse and Ovo were the top providers in Great Britain overall according to our survey. Bulb Energy and E.ON were also highly rated for how easy their bills are to understand and SSE and E.ON did well for the speed at which they answered calls from their customers.
We’ve also included their complaints data from the energy regulator Ofgem so you can see how they compare for the number of complaints they receive and how good they are at dealing with them.
The best energy suppliers in 2022
1. Octopus Energy: The ultimate for customer service, value and more
Octopus was launched in 2016 and is now one of Britain’s largest energy suppliers. All of its electricity is 100% renewable and it invests in renewable generation. It also offers carbon-offset gas on some of its tariffs and, clearly, it’s a winner as far as its customers are concerned.
With some 72% saying they would recommend it to a friend, it claims the title of Best Energy Supplier overall, and sweeps into top position in every other category in our survey as well.
It was top for Best Customer Service, with 69% saying they were either very or fairly satisfied with it and 53% of customers satisfied with its value for money. A total of 86% said their last bill was easy to understand.
Octopus was also rated as the quickest at picking up the phone of any supplier, with 53% of customers saying they answered calls in five minutes or less and winning our Most Responsive Call Centre award.
2. Utility Warehouse: A great service with good complaint numbers and handling
Utility Warehouse has been around since 2002 and now has 700,000 customers, making it one of Great Britain’s medium-sized suppliers. It bundles together a range of home services, including energy, into one bill.
It was highly commended in three of our award categories and, in our survey, it came second only to Octopus Energy for the proportion of customers who said they would recommend it to others at 62%. It was still ten percentage points behind, however.
Its performance on customer service and value for money were also the second best, although only around half its customers (52%) said they were very or fairly satisfied with its customer service compared with 69% for Octopus. Some 40% of its customers were satisfied overall with value for money, and 24% of these people said they were very satisfied — the highest percentage for this across our survey.
Utility Warehouse customers gave it the lowest rating for how easy their last bill was to understand with only 59% saying it was very or fairly easy. Alas, we weren’t able to rate it for the speed at which it answered calls from customers as there wasn’t a big enough sample size for this in our survey.
3. Ovo Energy: One of the best but gets lots of complaints
Ovo Energy was launched in 2009 and is now one of Great Britain’s largest suppliers with over a million customers. It grew significantly after taking on Spark Energy’s customers when Spark went into administration in 2018, and buying the retail arm of energy giant SSE in January 2020. All its customers get 100% renewable electricity.
Like Utility Warehouse, it was highly commended in three of our award categories, coming third in each one. It was still way behind Octopus Energy and Utility Warehouse, though, with only 44% saying they would recommend it to a friend. This figure was 72% for Octopus and 62% for Utility Warehouse.
Just over two-fifths (42%) of Ovo customers said they were very or fairly satisfied with its customer service, although its acquisition, SSE, came bottom in this category with a miserable 26%. Ovo wasn’t far behind second-place Utility Warehouse for value for money at 38% satisfied but it’s interesting to note that only 9% said they were very satisfied.
When it comes to how easy its bills were to understand, it wasn’t among the best, however, a respectable 72% of customers still said their last bill was very or fairly easy to comprehend. We weren’t able to report on how quickly Ovo answered the phone, unfortunately, since our sample size wasn’t large enough for us to be able to judge this reliably.
4. Bulb Energy: Not as good as it once was but bills are clear
Bulb came third in almost all our award categories in last year’s awards but it claimed only one highly commended award this year. A troubled year that saw the company going into special administration in November is likely to be the main reason for the decline in the satisfaction of its customers.
A mere 39% of customers said they would recommend it to a friend and only slightly more said they were very or fairly satisfied with its customer service at 42%. Only a third of people said they were satisfied with its value for money. It was far from the worst in these categories, however.
Where Bulb did receive plaudits, however, was for the clarity of its bills. It was highly commended in this category, with 76% of respondents saying their last bill was very or fairly easy to understand. It had the second highest proportion of people who said it was very easy to understand at 41%, only beaten by Octopus’s percentage of 52%. We weren’t able to rate it for how quickly it answered the phone due to a lack of data.
Customer complaints were, surprisingly given its problems, very low. According to Ofgem data, it fielded only 971 per 100,000 customers – that’s lower than all the other companies apart from Utility Warehouse and Octopus Energy. It wasn’t the best at resolving them, with 67% sorted by the end of the next working day. However, an impressive 97% were resolved within eight weeks.
All of Bulb’s electricity is 100% renewable, which it buys from generators, and all of its gas is carbon offset.