A simples guide

Can I trust a less well known energy supplier?

Most of us like familiarity – like beans and chips and anything a little bit new or different is usually met with a little bit of suspicion – like quinoa and goji berries. The same could be said for energy companies, we all know about the ‘big six’ (British Gas, EDF Energy, EON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE) but what about all those other, smaller, newer, independent suppliers? They’re certainly tempting with their low cost energy and promises of better customer service, but can you trust them?

Where have all these new companies come from?

The ‘big six’ energy companies provide 85.5% of households with gas, electricity or both. But just five years ago, these six provided 99% of households with energy. So that meant there wasn’t much choice for the consumer, because no other companies could really get a look in. All that changed from 2013 when energy regulator, Ofgem tried to make things fairer, this meant there was an emergence of new smaller energy companies. Since then, numerous companies (some of which you’ve probably never, ever heard of) have started supplying households with gas and electricity.

Independent energy providers are just niche though aren’t they?

Not necessarily, although some independent providers do specialise in supplying green fuel while others pride themselves on offering top notch customer service (and decent fuel prices). But on the whole most of them offer the same services you’d expect from one of the larger companies.

Powering your home is one of those serious things that you don’t want to get wrong – nobody wants to end up sitting in the dark with no TV and no internet. So, it’s easy to think that it’s safer to stick with one of the bigger providers – after all, they’re so big they must be good at what they do, right? But small can be just as good and Ofgem have regulations in place that mean no matter who provides your energy, you won’t ever get left in the dark.

Can I trust a less well known energy supplier?

So what are the pros and cons of independent energy providers?

Of course nothing clarifies a situation better than a good pros and cons list, so here goes:

Pros of small energy providers

Cons of small energy providers

Lower overheads mean lower costs for customers

As many are new there’s not much info about them

Exempt from expensive legal obligations government enforces the ‘big 6’ to adhere to


Independent providers may lack the infrastructure to deal with a sudden influx of large numbers of customers, many of them have a customer base significantly smaller than any of the big six

Some small companies have appeared in the top spots in recent overall customer satisfaction surveys

Smaller firms could mean less customer service staff to handle queries

More suppliers, more competition in the market, lower prices etc.



benefits of independent energy providers

Of course, if you decide to compare and switch its worth looking at new providers in more detail. For example, Ofgem and Citizens Advice have published data that allows you to see how each of the big six and the independents have fared in specific areas.

Smaller energy suppliers tend to dominate the top spots in customer satisfaction not all small providers are created equal. Ofgem has data for Q1 (January – March) 2016 that shows the number of complaints per 100,000 customer accounts and it’s not all bad for the big six and not all peachy for the independents.

According to figures from Ofgem, of the largest energy suppliers, EDF energy had the most complaints with 2,506 per 100,000, npower had the least with 1,674 per 100,000 (although this is a huge drop from Q1 2015 where complaints were a whopping 5,635 per 100,000).

But Utility Warehouse – one of the new kids on the block ended Q1 2016 with 2,769 complaints per 100,000 – more than EDF. Compare this to Ovo energy another independent who had a teeny tiny 146 complaints per 100,000. So if you’re going to switch, it’s worth taking a look at what existing customers are saying about providers.

Am I protected if an independent energy supplier goes bust?

Yes, you are so you shouldn’t have any worries on this front. Ofgem have ensured that if, for whatever reason your energy supplier decides to pack it all in and leave the energy market your supply will still carry on, albeit with another provider and you will be informed of these changes throughout the process. Providing monthly meter readings also helps to avoid the risk of being in credit with your provider when they cease trading

How much am I likely to save?

It’s all based on how much energy you use and the tariff that you’re on. You can do it online by having your existing bill to hand and answering a few straightforward questions. It’s easy and hassle free so if you want to see what you could save, start comparing.