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Big Six reviews

British Gas

By Sarah Ingrams

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British Gas

British Gas is the UK’s largest domestic energy provider, supplying around a third of homes in Great Britain with gas. But is British Gas any good?

British Gas is one of only two British-owned and British-based suppliers among the Big Six energy companies; the other is SSE. British Gas is a subsidiary of Centrica.

It remains the biggest energy company, although it has been losing customers for a while. It lost around 372,000 customer accounts between July and October 2018.

It is known as Scottish Gas in Scotland and also sells boilers, smart-home products and HomeCare insurance.

Its British Gas Rewards scheme gives customers personalised offers, which can include boiler services, Hive heating or lighting products, free energy days and discounts at Waitrose and on Sky entertainment.

British Gas was the supply partner of Sainsbury's Energy until April 2019. Find out what you need to know if you were a Sainsbury’s Energy customer

Can British Gas save you money? Use our independent switching site, Which? Switch, to compare energy prices and find out.

British Gas customer score

British Gas came joint 26th out of 30 energy companies, as rated by 7,429 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey.

Customers gave it OK ratings across the board, although they don’t consider it good value for money, or rate its phone customer service or bills as well as rival energy companies.

At the time, its other brand Sainsbury’s Energy scored better on almost every measure. Sainsbury’s Energy customers were much more satisfied with its online customer service (which was rated five stars) than British Gas’ customers (which was rated three).

British Gas score breakdown 

The graphic below shows the breakdown of British Gas’s score from our survey.

Scroll down to read the full Which? verdict on British Gas, plus how its prices compare with other suppliers.

Find out how British Gas compares with other energy companies – click to see our full results of the best and worst energy companies.

Which? verdict on British Gas

Although British Gas is the largest energy supplier in Britain, it’s neither the best-loved nor the cheapest. Customers continue to leave it in the thousands, suggesting they’re looking for better service or prices elsewhere.

Customers consider it poor value for money – only British Gas and Npower received this rating – although its standard variable tariff was the cheapest among the Big Six suppliers, for some of 2018, however it now is closed to new customers and limited by the price cap.

That doesn’t mean it’s a cheap tariff, though: our research over the past year found that you can often save £250 or more by switching from this tariff to the cheapest deal on the market. 

British Gas closed its standard variable tariff to new customers in 2018 and put customers on ‘Temporary’ fixed tariffs instead. It said it was committed to creating a ‘fairer, more competitive and sustainable energy market for our customers’.

However in January 2019, its Temporary tariff became a variable tariff again which tracks the energy price cap on standard and default tariffs.

Fixed Temporary tariffs were slightly cheaper than British Gas’ standard tariff but the new variable one is the same price. Either way, you’ll still be better off by switching.

Our survey found that around two thirds (59%) of British Gas customers have been with it for more than five years. But loyalty doesn’t equate to high satisfaction levels.

British Gas customer service

Customer service on the phone was rated poor by customers, and worse than that of its rivals EDF Energy, Eon, SSE and subsidiary Sainsbury’s Energy.

Our snapshot investigation into energy companies’ customer waiting times found it took more than 10 and a half minutes on average to get through to a human in British Gas’s customer services. However, it wasn’t the slowest energy supplier to answer the phone by any means: Spark took more than 27 minutes on average.

When we tested British Gas’s live chat, it took just 12 seconds on average to respond to us, making it one of the fastest firms.

British Gas and smart meters

British Gas has begun its smart meter roll-out in earnest and has installed the most (around six million) smart meters in its customers’ homes of any energy supplier so far.

It also owns Hive and sells its smart thermostats, smart plugs, smart light bulbs and smart locks.

But despite this, customers still rated British Gas poor at helping them understand and reduce their energy use.

Pros: Quick to respond on live chat

Cons: One of only two firms to be rated poor value for money by customers

British Gas electricity sources

British Gas prices 

The graph above compares British Gas’s variable (also known as standard) tariff, its most expensive tariff and its cheapest fixed tariff against the cheapest fixed tariff on the market over a two-year period. 

Since British Gas closed its standard tariff to new customers, we’ve been comparing its Temporary tariff instead. This is the tariff you’ll be moved onto automatically if you take no action when your fixed deal ends. British Gas launched multiple new versions of this throughout 2018, and has now changed it to a variable rate deal which tracks the price cap so its price changes.

In August 2018, you wouldn’t have been able to save money compared with its standard tariff unless you switched to another energy company. But then you could have saved around £200 in a year.

Don't pay your energy company more than you should. Use Which? Switch to find a cheap gas and electricity deal.

British Gas in the news

May:British Gas announced that 183,000 households had switched away from it in the first three months of 2019. It said that the price increase in the cap on variable and default tariffs had led to a spike in customers switching in March and April.

The price cap has cost it £70million so far this year, it said.

February: British Gas said that it would raise prices for the four million customers on its standard or default tariffs from 1 April. The announcement came days after Ofgem revealed it would increase the price cap in place on default tariffs.

If you’re among them, you’ll pay 10% more per year. This equates to £119 extra per year for households which use a medium amount of energy.

If you top up a prepayment meter, your bills will rise by 9%, or £107, per year.

British Gas and Sainsbury's announced that their partnership will end in April.

A Centrica spokesperson said: 'We have enjoyed a successful partnership with Sainsbury's since 2011 and we will be writing to Sainsbury's Energy customers to reassure them they will continue to be supplied by British Gas under the same terms and conditions and they will now be able to join the British Gas Rewards loyalty programme.'

November: British Gas lost another 372,000 customer accounts between July and October.

May: British Gas revealed it lost 110,000 energy accounts in the first four months of this year. This equates to around 70,000 customers since most have both a gas and electricity account.

Centrica said ‘high levels of competitive industry’ were responsible for the customer loss, though the rate had slowed.

April: British Gas announced a 5.5% increase in its gas and electricity prices from 29 May. Dual-fuel customers on its standard variable tariff saw their bills rise by £60 on average per year. Customers on fixed tariffs won’t be affected during the duration of their deal.

British Gas blamed rising wholesale energy prices and policy costs for the increase.

British Gas' standard tariff ceased to be be the cheapest of the Big Six suppliers, following this price rise.

February: British Gas announced that 750,000 customers switched away during 2017.

November: British Gas announced plans to scrap its standard tariff for new customers. It also announced plans for new bundled tariffs, clearer bills and improved customer service.

It also revealed it had lost 823,000 customer accounts since announcing a price rise in June 2017, leaving it with a total of 7.9 million customers.

September: British Gas came joint-60th out of 100 in our survey of the best and worst big brands for customer service, with a customer service score of 75%.

In the same month British Gas increased its electricity prices by 12.5% for standard tariff customers, adding £76 on average to their dual-fuel bill over the following year. The 200,000 affected customers who received the Warm Home Discount received £76 credit.

July: British Gas paid £1.1m to domestic and small business customers to compensate them for its agents missing or being late to appointments and failing to compensate them for this. Energy regulator Ofgem requires firms to pay customers compensation if they don’t meet minimum standards, including keeping appointments.

Energy regulator Ofgem also announced an investigation into whether British Gas broke rules around switching. The probe will examine whether customers were charged exit fees incorrectly.

June: British Gas paid £9.5m in redress after energy regulator Ofgem found it broke regulations for switching, billing and complaints handling for small business customers in 2014 and 2015.

January: It agreed with Ofgem to pay out, after failing to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install advanced electricity meters for business customers.