Our latest annual satisfaction survey shows that customers still feel they are getting a raw deal from the dominant big energy suppliers, with smaller competitors wiping the floor with them when it comes to keeping customers happy.
The survey is pretty grim reading for customers of the Big Six suppliers. SSE, E.ON, British Gas, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower all scored much lower than smaller rivals yet again. Although the average score improved on last year, our survey found big companies with millions of customers are still falling down on the basics of customer service such as dealing with complaints or ensuring bills are accurate and clear.
For the fourth year running npower has come bottom with a satisfaction score of just 35%, scoring just one star out of five for most of the criteria we looked at for the survey. In fact, the six largest companies, which account for around 90% of the British market, can all be found towards the bottom of our table with none of them scoring above 50%.
By contrast, the top spot has been awarded to Ecotricity with a score of 84%, closely followed by Good Energy (82%), Ebico (81%), Ovo Energy (80%), Utility Warehouse (76%) and Flow Energy (73%) - all are smaller independent providers.
Despite recent modest price cuts to standard gas tariffs, consumers tell us that energy prices are their top financial worry with around seven in 10 (68%) people reporting concern. Customers are right to question whether the price cuts go far enough in response to a significant shift in wholesale prices which have been falling for months. Some of the price falls don't come into effect until the end of February and no doubt energy customers will be questioning why they must wait so long to see their bills cut.
Little wonder then that the entire market is under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. We need this enquiry, which reports at the end of this year, to propose radical remedies to fix this broken market. It must also get to the bottom of whether our prices are fair, whether falling wholesale energy costs are being passed on to customers fairly, and whether a lack of competition leaves us all out of pocket.
But in the meantime, instead of waiting for the outcome of the competition inquiry, we are urging companies to make immediate improvements to help restore trust among their long-suffering customers. Our survey suggests the big suppliers need to up their game as their millions of customers deserve better.
If you think you're missing out on the cheapest deal the best thing to do is explore whether there is a better energy deal for your circumstances. Which? Switch is an independent service that searches the market to provide a comprehensive, transparent and impartial view of your gas and electricity options, including supplier and tariff ratings to help you decide on service as well as price.
Which? is running a Fix the Big Six campaign and has an online petition (www. www.which.co.uk/bigsix) where people can pledge their support to help us fix the broken energy market.