by Deborah Burley

Image by savethejellyrabbit via flickr

Price rises, inquiries and accusations of cartel-like behaviour. It’s hardly surprising that more and more people are looking to smaller energy suppliers – but do they offer a genuine alternative?

The Big Six, otherwise known as ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), EDF, British Gas, npower and E.ON are the largest energy suppliers in UK.

However, in recent months they’ve each implemented a series of price rises, which has left many households in Britain struggling to pay their energy bills.

Swamping the market, the Big Six supply over 99% of the UK with energy. It may mean that customers are sometimes unaware of other energy companies out there, and are left feeling that there are no alternatives than to hold on tigichht to their existing supplier – price rise or not.

As well as prices increasing dramatically (the average customer’s bill is now 21% higher than this time last year), there have been other struggles for the Big Six’s customers.

The latest consumer survey for energy from uSwitch found that only 58% of people were satisfied with the customer service received from their supplier.

And the energy industry had another shake recently following news that 27% of households had received the wrong energy bill in the last two years. Shortly after this, it was declared the second worst industry for billing.

It was yet another knockback for energy companies, wh are struggling to improve the consumer confidence.

Energy reform


Energy secretary Chris Huhne has recently pledged to improve the energy industry, by allowing a wider competition to develop amongst energy suppliers.

At the latest Lib Dem conference he said Ofgem would have more control over increasing renewable energy and simplifying tariffs billing systems.

He said that: “It is not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers – who do not switch – while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

“That looks to me like predatory pricing. It must and will stop.”

It means that smaller energy suppliers will perhaps now have the chance to make an impact on the market, and his opinions may have got people thinking.

Smaller energy suppliers, why switch?

A series of negative stories surrounding the six dominant energy suppliers has given smaller companies a chance to compete and offer the pubic a viable alternative. It means that customers can look outside of the box and decide whether there are other options out there.

Ofgem recently put pressure on gas and electricity suppliers to prove how they calculate energy bills. But, First Utility, for example, is offering its customers free smart meters which automatically take a meter reading every half an hour for accurate bills. It’s their way of proving that their prices can be trusted.

But customers don’t just want a good price for their energy, they’re looking for the extra benefits from their energy suppliers too.

There has been a distinct increase in the sense of social responsibility about where we get our energy from, leaving us more likely to sign up to green suppliers who will relieve our energy guilt as well as our overheads.
Ecotricity, for instance, offers green energy along with lower prices, while Good Energy creates its electricity from renewable sources generated by wind, small-scale hydro and solar power generators around Britain.

EBICo, a not-for-profit company, only offers single-tier gas and electricity tariffs where each unit of energy used costs the same.

The promise of a fixed rate energy tariff  seems to be an attractive one for consumers feeling uneasy about an increased bill. OVO is an example of a smaller supplier offering fixed price plans and it is also offering  paperless bills and tariffs as well as online account management, which is popular among those looking to modernise the relationship they have with their energy supplier and keep all admin waste-free.

What next?                                                                  

At the moment, the ulitmate outcome of this new political attention on the the energy industry waits to be seen. How the energy market might change for the better is still unsure, although some energy suppliers have been making concessions to make bills easier to manage financially.

uSwitch recently supported plans from E.ON to offer customers a reduction on their yearly bill over a two year contract and, with the government’s clearly watchful eye on the gas and electricity suppliers, services may still improve for UK energy users.

For those that aren’t so sure though, and want a change from the biggest energy suppliers, here’s a few of the smaller energy companies worth considering, and their annual price rate:

Supplier

Plan Name

Payment Method

Price

First Utility

iSave Dual Fuel V8

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,032

First:Utility

Smart as Standard V2

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,049

Ovo

New Energy Fixed*

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,050

OVO Energy

New Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,050

Spark Energy

Standard

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,057

OVO Energy

Green Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,102

The Co-Operative Energy

Pioneer

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,179

Utilita

Energysaver

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,206

Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,232

Good Energy

Good Energy & Gas +

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,247

EBIco

EquiDual

Monthly Direct Debit

£1,293

Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Pay on Receipt of Bill

£1,352

Spark Energy

Standard Plus

Pay on Receipt of Bill

£1,504

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