Is big or small better for an energy provider?

Energy Team Blog

Mike Pickering

A lot has happened in the UK energy market since the days of privatisation. Since such days there has been a monopoly on the sector as the ‘big 6’ dominate with ‘a whopping 98% of the market’ (according to Which?).

When choosing a supplier for your home energy would you opt for big or small?

Many assume that bigger is better. Why? Because they have the resources, the research, the clout to be able to offer better customer service and prices, but is this true?

According to an article in Marketing Magazine the larger suppliers continue to experience high levels of customer complaints, with Npower bottom of the list with an average of 306 per 100,000 customers. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau said “things are getting worse” for Npower customers, who have found their “finances thrown into chaos” due to the brand’s new billing system, which it adopted last year.

The nature of complaints for any of the ‘big 6’ is wide and varied, but from our own previous research we understand these mainly centre around issues of pricing, billing and meters.

Further research by Harris goes on to suggest that nearly a quarter of all complaints to energy providers are not resolved, and continue to linger on, whereas a further third are only partly resolved and not to the satisfaction of the customer.

Performance of the ‘big 6’ with regards customer satisfaction is deemed poor according to a recent Which? report, with these larger companies occupying 6 of the bottom 7 places in the table. Only SSE achieved an average score of more than 50% across questions of customer service, value for money, bills (accuracy and clarity), complaints and helping customers save money.

Leading the table with an average score of 85% is Good Energy, followed by Ecotrciity, Ebico, Utility Warehouse and Ovo Energy.

You could be forgiven for suggesting; of course smaller suppliers provide better service as they have fewer customers to look after, but their prices are higher.

Well, according to MoneySupermarket, smaller suppliers are no longer more expensive; GreenStar Energy, Ecotricity, Ovo and First Utility are all offering cheap and competitive tariffs to customers.

That said, can consumers have the best of both worlds by switching to smaller providers and getting better customer service and lower priced energy??


  • Customer Complaints
  • Customer Experience
  • Energy Providers