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The big six suppliers’ grip is starting to slip

08 January 2014

New research shows that smaller providers could be a popular choice but people lack confidence when it comes to switching their energy tariffs

  • Just 4% of householders think that the big six energy providers are working hard to keep prices down for their customers
  • 29% of people expect to switch away from the big six in the next three years
  • But despite this, 17% still say that they would not consider moving to a smaller supplier

Following a winter of price hikes that will see people’s average annual dual fuel bill rise to £1,371.21*, new research indicates that only 4% of householders believe the big six are trying to keep prices down for their customers, and more needs to be done to help consumers make the switch to new tariffs.

Gocompare.com, the comparison website, commissioned a survey of over 2,000 adults who are currently customers of the UK’s big six energy suppliers – British Gas, E.ON, npower, EDF, ScottishPower and SSE – and found that almost a third (29%) expect to switch to smaller suppliers at some point in the next three years. But it seems that this intention may be hampered by a lack of confidence among consumers.

Even though 25% of those surveyed said that they would be happy to switch to a smaller, independent energy provider, 17% said they would not, and one in four (25%) thought it likely that they would still be with one of the big six suppliers in three years’ time. When asked why they said ‘no’ to switching to a smaller energy provider, respondents said:

  • If they go out of business my gas/electricity will be cut off – 9%
  • They don’t have as many staff, so their service will be bad – 4%
  • I don’t trust them – 19%
  • I’ve never heard of them – 68%
  • They don’t have enough customers to be financially stable – 15%
  • All energy companies are the same, so I’ll stick to what I know – 22%

The survey also revealed confusion among consumers when it comes to their bills and tariffs, with 22% saying ‘I find energy bills are so confusing that they put me off shopping around’, while 19% agreed that ‘I’ve compared energy tariffs but the choice was bewildering so I stayed put’. A further 22% said that ‘I’d be more likely to switch if it didn’t take 4-6 weeks to move from one supplier to the next’.  It’s not surprising, then, that 12% of people said that they’d never switched their energy provider or tariff.

Jeremy Cryer, Gocompare.com’s energy spokesperson, said: “With the cost of energy certain to remain a hot topic for hard-pressed households this year, our research reveals a worrying lack of confidence among consumers when it comes to switching providers.

“The findings also flagged up people’s concerns with switching to smaller suppliers, including a lack of trust and fears that they could go out of business and result in energy supplies being cut off, but there really is no need to be worried about switching away from the big energy companies. Smaller, independent providers can offer competitive deals and often far better customer service than their big six counterparts, so it’s well worth looking into what they have to offer.

“While politicians try to find ways to alleviate the financial impact of green levies and other factors on people’s bills, and Ofgem attempts to simplify tariffs and introduce measures to demystify the energy market, householders can take control of their energy spend themselves by shopping around regularly. Switching energy tariffs using a comparison website could be one of the simplest and quickest ways to make significant savings on your annual energy bill, with reductions of £300 or more not uncommon.”**


Notes to editors:

Based on research commissioned by Gocompare.com and carried out by Consumer Intelligence on 13 and 14 December 2013 with 2,016 UK adults who are customers of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers (British Gas, ScottishPower, E.ON, npower, EDF, and SSE).

*Average annual dual fuel bill based on post price rise bills for customers of the big six suppliers minus £50 where applicable (average reduction following government plans to reduce impact of price rises)

**Based on customers who switched energy supplier for both gas and electricity (dual fuel) using the Energylinx powered Gocompare platforms during the 1st July - 30th September 2013. At least 10% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with Gocompare.com saved £309.05 or more