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Challenger energy suppliers top customer service poll

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31/03/2021
The energy suppliers delivering the strongest levels of customer service are those which are far-from-household names, a new poll from Citizens Advice has revealed.

The study awards suppliers with a star rating, bringing together data on complaints, billing and switching from its own interactions with customers as well as the Energy Ombudsman and Energy UK.

And the top of the table is dominated by smaller suppliers. Here is how the top five shape up:

Supplier Score (out of five)
Igloo Energy 4.4
M&S Energy 4.4
Outfox the Market 4.25
Co-operative Energy 4.15
Octopus Energy 4.15

However, the worst scoring suppliers are also challenger brands. Bottom place went to Orbit Energy for example with a score of a paltry 1.5, with Symbio only marginally better, scoring 1.55. Symbio has had a difficult year, having been warned it faced a £100,000 fine for late payments into the government’s renewables schemes.

There is significant variance between the service levels on offer from the big providers. EDF Energy is easily the best of the large names, scoring four out of five, followed by British Gas at 3.2. The other big names put up middling scores: SSE got 2.8, Scottish Power received a score of 2.7, while E.On managed just 2.35.

Getting value for money

The study also highlighted that paying more for your energy doesn’t mean you enjoy a higher level of service. 

It found that of the 20 cheapest deals with energy suppliers, only five come from suppliers in the bottom third of the table.

By contrast, 10 of those cheap tariffs come from suppliers in the top third of the customer service table.

Can I pay my bills?

More concerningly, the research found that around one in four households are worried that they will be able to afford their energy bills as a result of the pandemic. 

This is particularly timely, given that April sees an increase to the energy price cap, with some warning that as many as 10 million households will face bill hikes.

Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that given so many people are facing job losses and financial issues, it was “unacceptable” that energy bills were another source of stress.

He added: “With the rise in the energy price cap, many will have to pay more and rightly expect a decent service. Suppliers must step up to give their customers what they deserve.”

Beating the energy price cap increase

It’s worth remembering that the price cap only applies to suppliers’ standard tariffs, which is the deal you move onto when your initial fixed or variable tariff ends.

These are substantially more expensive than the best new tariffs on the market. The most recent figures from Ofgem show that the cheapest tariffs in February cost the average household £933 for a year’s use, which works out at more than £100 a year less than you would pay on a standard tariff.

So if you want to beat that price cap increase ‒ and any future increases ‒ the easiest way to do it is ensure that you shop around every year or two for a new tariff.

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